Mixed response to new schools’ protocols


(Pointe Xpress)

The Ministry of Education is reporting that it has received a mixed response to the COVID-19 arrangements it intends to implement in the upcoming academic year.

Last week, the ministry announced the regulations that will go into effect when schools reopen on September 7.

In an appearance on Pointe FM’s Browne and Browne talk show over the weekend, Deputy Director of Education, Jonah Greene and Education Officer for School Administration and Services, Dr. Desiree Antonio, reinforced the information provided to the public during a press conference last Wednesday.

Greene said there was widespread consultation with stakeholders in education concerning the new measures in order to ensure that there was a ‘buyin’ regarding the regulations.

Consultations were held with the Ministry of Health, the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board, principals, teachers, the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers and parents.

“We gained valuable information from these interventions which have helped to guide the framing of the new measures. While nothing is cast in stone, we are prepared to revisit these arrangements in the future should that become necessary,” she stated.

Despite this, the ministry said there is still a fair amount of anxiety among some parents who have expressed misgivings about sending their children back to school in this era of COVID-19.

“Some parents don’t want to send their children back to the classrooms. They have been following what’s been happening in other countries where parents have taken this stance. On the other hand, we have cases where parents are prepared to send their children back to school if they are satisfied that the measures being put in place by the ministry are sufficient to protect their children,” Dr. Antonio added.

She explained that the Education Act provides for home schooling if parents decide to go that route.

If this option is decided upon, the Act requires that parents write to the Director of Education to seek approval for home schooling.

Home schooled children will also be constantly monitored by the ministry. Meanwhile, the officials confirmed a phased return to the classrooms for students at both the primary and secondary levels.

In primary schools during week one, kindergarteners and Grades 1, 2 and 6 will report to school and all students in the second week.

For secondary schools, each cohort of students will report to school on different days.

For example, first form students will report on day one, second form on day two and so on.

Greene said the success of the schools in managing the COVID-19 situation will depend largely on students and how they will adhere to social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing measures.