The new school term is set to start on September 21 and end on December 11.
This announcement came from Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw through a statement this evening where she also indicated that over the next few days, schools will finalize plans on what they will look like, and noted that parents will receive additional information regarding plans to reopen schools through their Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
Bradshaw said while she recently concluded meetings with teachers and their unions, in the coming days the Ministry will be meeting with executives of PTAs.
Bradshaw said the briefing was to inform the nation on what students and parents can expect when school starts, including that there will be a blended approach involving face-to-face classes and online learning.
“We are hoping that for the start of the term, the remainder of the devices that we need to have access to, that those devices will be deployed and over the course of the next few days and weeks, the intention is to start the further distribution of devices that are in our possession.
“We appreciate that in the first two weeks or so, that teachers will perhaps, through the principals, be informing us that there is increase demand and we have obviously secured some devices from Kenya where we are going to be accessing over 20 000 devices that are going to be deployed across the education system, over the next couple weeks,” she said.
“It therefore means that a blended approach does not necessarily mean a 50/50 approach, which will be 50 per cent face-to-face and 50 per cent staying at home and using technology.
“It means that each school will differ in terms of how the blended approach is employed, depending on the number of devices available to students. And parents have to work with our administrators to provide information up front and early so that certain decisions can be made as it relates to timetabling and scheduling of classes,” Bradshaw added.
She said it has been acknowledged that while the shift system may be useful for some parents, there are some who may find difficulties coping because they have more than one child. On that note, Bradshaw asked parents to update their contact information, including email addresses, so that they can be easily reached.
The Minister noted that the first two weeks, teachers will spend time finding out where students have fallen behind and to address any concerns that may have arisen, including putting students in smaller groups where they can receive individual attention.
“It is advisable that students will wear their mask and we have made specific allowances for students, and also teachers, where there are obviously illnesses, which might prevent them from being able to wear the mask for extended parents. In discussions with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, they have recommended that desks be placed at least six feet apart if students are to remove their mask while in a class and if desks are placed closer than that then the mask must be worn at all times,” she said.
Bradshaw said the Ministry will also be supplying masks donated by UNICEF to both teachers and students. She said face shields will also be provided where necessary.
She also announced that schools will ensure that there are staggered breaks and lunchtimes for meals and snacks to avoid clustering. She said while students will be allowed to eat in their classrooms, parents are being urged to give their children packed lunch.
With several schools being renovated in recent weeks, Minister Bradshaw said while majority are close to being completed, St Giles Primary School plant, which received extensive renovations may not be ready for students until mid-October.
Bradshaw also stressed that following a meeting with transport authorities, plans are being put in place for an improved system for when schools reopens. She said in order to assist the Barbados Transport Board in providing an efficient service; schools will be required to provide the Board with timetables.
She said protocols are also coming to ensure that with the expected increase in numbers on the road when school resumes, public transportation will have additional sanitizing.
The Minister also assured parents of students with special needs that the Ministry will be working with them to ensure their charges are reintegrated into the classroom setting.
Bradshaw revealed that on September 10, janitors across the school will receive training to assist them in facilitating their obligations across the school plants.
Additionally, Bradshaw said special protocols are also being established to guide how music and physical education classes must be conducted when schools reopen.
“We will work with our community centres; we are going to work with our faith-based organizations because parents should also be made aware that in an effort to keep children in school, the school plants may not be able to accommodate all of the students that are on the roll.
“And therefore, working with the respective ministries, we have come to an agreement that we are going to look at utilizing churches and community centres to expand the school plants,” she said. (AH)