Fri | Oct 15, 2021

Western schools weathering COVID-19 storm

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2021 | 12:21 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


Despite surging COVID-19 cases in western Jamaica, Region Four schools that have reopened for face-to-face classes have not recorded transmissions, offering much-needed confidence to education stakeholders.

The parishes of St James, Westmoreland, and Hanover, which constitute Region Four of the Ministry of Education, have a combined 3,851 positive COVID-19 cases. However, no cases have so far been detected among students of schools that have reopened.

“We have been operating with high caution. Our school leaders, their boards, and middle managers have been monitoring the COVID-19 protocols,” said Dr Michelle Pinnock, who heads Region Four, noting that focus is being placed on preparing exam cohorts.

Pinnock said that schools offering in-person classes have been free of COVD-19 because of intense, frank, and open discussions.

The Region Four head said that 57 of the 145 schools in St James, Westmoreland, and Hanover, which were forced to close because of the pandemic, have resumed classes for senior students in grades six, 11, 12, and 13.

The reopening of schools in the west is happening amid a national spike in COVID-19 positive cases, causing public hospitals to buckle under the weight of the crisis. Bed space has largely run out and staff are overstretched.

This week, one high and six primary schools have joined the list of institutions where teachers and students will operate in the same space for the first time since March 2020.

In St James, Montego Bay High School for girls opened to students in the examination cohort covering grades 11 to 13. Barrett Town Primary and Infant and Farm Primary and Infant schools have also resumed in-person operations.

While no additional schools in Hanover have received permission to restart face-to-face classes, Pinnock said Westmoreland has seen the return to in-person interaction at another four primary schools.

Sixth-graders at Ferris, Caledonia, Kentucky, and Holly Hill primary schools returned to a blend of face-to-face and online classes, he disclosed.