Press Release:– On Monday August 24, 2020 a comprehensive discussion and presentation on the proposed reopening of schools was broadcast live on the National Television Network and on Wvent 93.5 FM.
The panelists included the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sharon Belmar George, Ms. Michelle Charles, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Innovation and Gender Relations and Dr. Fiona Mayer the Chief Education Officer.
During the discussions it was revealed that Cabinet had accepted and approved that the proposed date for the reopening of school will be September 7, while August 31 is the proposed date for teachers and staff to return to schools in preparation for the new school year.
fter much discussion, engagement and consultation, the Department of Education is now in a position where we are prepared to address the issue on the proposed reopening of school,” Ms. Michelle Charles said Monday.
“Our primary responsibility is to ensure that instruction and learning are carried out in an environment which is healthy and friendly,” she went on to say.
In light of the Global Pandemic that is Covid-19, the Department of Education’s decision was informed by several stakeholder meetings and consultations, a guidance report from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) which was accepted by CARICOM member states as well as the Ministry of Health and the CMO.
According to the CMO Dr. Sharon Belmar George, the decision to reopen schools is also guided by “risk based approach to protect the health and promote the safety of students, teachers, staff and communities”.
The Chief Education Officer Dr. Fiona Mayer disclosed Monday that consultations were held with various stakeholders including Curriculum and Assessment Officers, the Saint Lucia Teachers Union, The National Principals Association, the Secondary Schools Principals Association, Ministry of Health and Wellness Officials, the Environmental Health Unit, the National Youth Council, the National Students Council, representatives of denominational schools, special education administrators, staff and teachers of both primary and secondary schools.
She went on to indicate that there are two proposed options for instructional engagements for the new school year. Individual schools will be communicating what obtains at their schools, directly to parents.
Option one is the whole school approach whereby students will attend school four days a week – Monday to Thursday. The fifth day Friday will be used as an in-school teacher planning and general sanitation day.
“The approval of the whole school approach is dependent upon student numbers, availability of physical infrastructure and human resource,” Dr. Mayer says.
Option two would require students to attend school with alternate days of instruction based on student population. With large school populations, smaller groupings per class/grade based on 3 ft. distance will be formed and students will attend school for the entire day on alternate days.
According to Dr. Mayer students will have three face to face instructional days and three distributed learning days to include virtual, activity worksheets and projects, while the seventh day will serve as an in-school teacher planning day and general sanitation day.
The Ministry of Education is working feverishly to ensure that schools are retrofitted with the physical infrastructure, washing stations, an increase in cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment for staff and students as well as sick bays.
According to Dr. Gale Rigobert, Minister for Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development, the Department of health and wellness has reiterated its continued commitment to working closely with the Department of Education to ensure safe working conditions for both students and staff through the adherence to all health, well-being and safety protocols and is minded that what has been arrived at are proposed dates and guidelines as the situation remains very fluid in light of Covid-19.
To this end, national guidelines have been prepared as per World Health Organization (WHO) protocols and form part of the guiding principles for the reopening of schools.
Dr. Rigobert will address the nation on the reopening of school and the education sector in general, ahead of the reopening at a date and time soon to be announced.