The Ministry of Education has put a new policy in place to help students and teachers feel more comfortable at school as the island continues to be affected by extremely hot and humid weather.
Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw made the announcement following a tour of St Stephen’s Primary School in Black Rock, St Michael on Monday, the first day of the new academic year.
She said she had sent out correspondence to all public schools informing them about dress code adjustments and other changes.
Acknowledging that the warm conditions could pose a challenge to the teaching and learning process, Archer-Bradshaw said that after talks with officials from the Ministry of Health, her ministry “issued a circular last week sharing with principals how teachers, students and parents can keep themselves cool”.
“We spoke about allowing them to drink water frequently throughout the school day. We spoke about allowing the children to access classes outdoors in shady areas, and one of the things that I shared in my circular with principals today is that we can allow children to wear their games clothes from time to time, or they can wear a white plain t-shirt along with their games pants.
“We do understand that it is hot outside, so we have to take the necessary measures to make sure that children and teachers are comfortable. Teachers are also required, if they wish, to wear loose fitting clothing to ensure they are comfortable while teaching.”
Archer-Bradshaw added that ministry officials were conducting an audit to determine how many classrooms across the public education system required fans.
“But I do know of some schools where the parent-teacher associations are very involved and they have bought fans for the various classrooms, so I encourage all parent-teacher associations to pitch in. In the meantime, we will conduct our audit to see how we can make less of the shortfall,” she added.
Reporting on the first day of school following the nine-week summer break, Archer-Bradshaw said everything went fairly smoothly and there were no major issues.
“I am quite pleased with what I’ve seen so far. I’ve received no negative reports relative to the opening of school today. And I’m very grateful to the Education Technical Management Unit at the Ministry of Education as well as the education officers who have made sure that today opened smoothly. I mustn’t forget the principals, teachers and other members of staff who were able to facilitate a smooth day today,” she said.
As it relates to the readiness of the public schools to resume classes, Archer-Bradshaw and acting director of the Education Technical Management Unit Francisco Miller, who oversees the schools’ summer repair programme, said they were pleased with the work that was done.
“We budgeted $2.2 million for the summer programme and we also had some additional minor works outside of the summer programme. We would have completed about 40 schools during that process; the work is ongoing. There’s about 85 nursery and primary schools so we looked at the most critical areas that would have impacted the start of school and we ensured that was done,” Miller said, adding that roof repairs and window replacements used up the biggest share of the budget.
During the tour, Archer-Bradshaw, who was accompanied by deputy chief education officer Joy Adamson, gave the students words of encouragement and told them it was important that they drank water often.
She also announced that the ministry was looking to set up water coolers at various schools and that an effort was being made to improve security at the schools.
“We are working on a safety and security policy for schools and that will be rolled out quite shortly. I must tell you that the Minister of Education has had a number of standing meetings with officials from the Ministry of Education along with external stakeholders to see how we can make our plants safer and we are closer to developing and finishing the policy now that we were at the beginning,” the education chief said.