Private schools resume classes with online sessions
Several private-school students returned to classes online on Monday, as school administrators sought to orient children to what will be the new norm during the COVID-19 pandemic.
President of the Jamaica Independent Schools Association (JISA), Dr Faithlyn Wilson, said that apart from Internet glitches, school administrators said the transition to online teaching has been seamless.
“Students and teachers were happy and engaged each other,” she told The Gleaner.
The new school term was originally slated to start on September 7, but due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, the Government has pushed back the date for the reopening of public schools to October 5. Dr Wilson said some operators of private schools did not wish to wait any longer.
“Some of the children have been out of school for an extended period of time, plus we had the intervening summer holiday. We did not want to delay any further, given that only God knows whether or not school will reopen in October; so it would be pointless to waste an entire month when we could be online,” she said.
“We are preparing to open face to face, so we are putting in the COVID-19 containment measures, but in the meantime, we are interacting with our students online,” she explained.
Meadowbrook Preparatory School principal Gloria Francis said Wednesday was orientation day for students and their parents. The students were officially welcomed back, there was devotion led by the school’s chaplain and remarks from the board chairman.
Parents were then updated about the expectations for this term and informed of the platforms that would be utilised for classes. Then came the breakout session, where students got to meet their class teachers and greet each other.
“In that group they were given, like, their timetable, their course outline, a welcome letter from the teacher, and their login for the platform that we are using,” said Francis.
“Many parents welcomed the online school because they had a lot of trepidation in terms of sending out the children in the space,” she told T he Gleaner.
St Andrew Preparatory School in the Corporate Area and Hosanna Preparatory School in Montego Bay, St James, are among the institutions that kick-started virtual learning on Monday, while some schools officially started sessions on Wednesday. The majority of prep schools across the island are set to start virtual classes beginning next Monday. These institutions include Vaz Preparatory in Kingston, and Montego Bay Christian Academy and St James Preparatory in St James.
The education ministry said it intends to have a ‘blended-approach’ model, which involves face-to-face class learning, and online and televised learning when school resumes on October 5.
Meanwhile, teachers at private institutions are still yet to receive the one-off payment of $40,000 that Education Minister Karl Samuda had announced in August. Speaking during the Jamaica Teachers’ Association’s 56th annual conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James, Samuda noted that the financial aid was approved under the COVID-19 Allocation of Resources to Employees programme offered by the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service. Support staff would receive $10,000.
“Up to yesterday (Tuesday), I followed up on that and I am still awaiting feedback from the Ministry of Education concerning where it is in the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Education is our regulator, so we have been reaching out to the Ministry of Education in terms of following up to understand where it is,” Wilson said.