THE MAJORITY of schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) reopened in full for face-to-face learning on Monday having been closed since March due to COVID-19.
The reopening came with several protocols in place aimed at fighting the spread of the coronavirus and yesterday, the first day of school, SEARCHLIGHT visited several institutions in and around the Kingstown.
Just before 9 a.m. principal of Kingstown Preparatory School (KPS), Susan Jackson-Abraham, said she was happy with how the reopening process went.
“…So far so good. It is close to 9 o’clock and there is no clutter at the gates with students. The only clutter is the parents outside, but the children are inside,” Jackson-Abraham told SEARCHLIGHT while pointing out that she had tremendous support from staff and parents.
“I think that is what eliminated the crowd,” said the principal who has 888 pupils on roll.
She added also that teachers do not have a problem doing temperature checks and this was evident as when there was a buildup at the kindergarten entrance, several teachers asked for thermometers to assist. The principal added also that a few students came without masks, but the school was able to provide for them.
“I would like to encourage parents to adhere to the protocols. Talk to the children every day concerning the protocols because this is a new thing for all of us and the children would not get it on a one off. To the parents, do not get too anxious. We are asking for the parents’ support and to follow up on the children’s schoolwork also,” Jackson-Abraham said, while noting that teachers will have to do a little more this term as some students were not able to participate in online learning.
SEARCHLIGHT also spoke to several parents.
Sia Creese, whose daughter is in grade 3 of the KPS said the process of getting the students back into school went well.
“Everything went briskly and it was handled professionally by the persons in charge,” observed Creese.
She noted that she also has a daughter at the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown (SJCK) and from her observation things went smoothly there as well.
Another mother, Monique Ollivierre said the process went very smoothly, but her only concern was that as a parent with a child entering a school for the first time she wanted to see her child seated.
“But all in all, I think it went pretty well and also not following them into class would give them a sense of independence,” Ollivierre said, while noting that she believes that at some point as parents you have to let go.
Lisa Galley, the aunt of a pupil, said there are advantages and disadvantages to the protocols. She noted that it was good that the vendors had been removed from around the school, which created more space for students and parents to maneuver, but she also saw some rushing from parents and students.
She also opined that the opening of schools during a pandemic would always be problematic with many pros and cons.
“They got to make the environment conducive to learning, so with all this, I don’t know how the children will make it happen,” said Galley. At the Lodge Village Primary School on the outskirts of Kingstown, principal Keslon Wilson said the day started off hectic as parents did not want to adhere to some of the protocols and they flocked the gates trying to get onto the compound.
He said he had to be back and forth between the two entrances trying to pacify parents while answering numerous questions.
“This is understandable, as the parents themselves are very unsure in these uncertain times and then the children also were a bit uncertain because it is a different protocol where you have to wash hands at entrances and have temperature checks,” Wilson said.
He however noted that things were under control and the situation settled down nicely, “better than I expected.”
“I know parents are going to want to come onto the school compound, but I rather go to the gate and not let them in in these uncertain times. The ministry is not in favor of parents coming onto the compound either,” Wilson said while adding that parents would only be allowed in if it is absolutely necessary.
“There will be situations that will merit them coming on, but they will have to wear a mask,” Wilson said.
One parent who did not want to give her name told SEARCHLIGHT that she wanted to accompany her child to the classroom and meet the class teacher but was stopped from doing so. She said she was disappointed.
“They doing this thing wrong. They need the teachers in front the gate so when the children enter, they can say this is the grade one teacher, this is the grade two instead of the parents wondering who … [are] the teachers,” said the irate mother.
She added that the school told the students to go to the classrooms and look for their names on the door and to her, that is unacceptable, as a child can get confused easily.
Senior Education Officer with responsibility for Primary Schools Jocelyn Blake-Browne was visiting the various primary schools on Monday morning when SEARCHLIGHT met up with her at the Lodge Village Government School.
She said students were excited to be back in school and she is hoping that cases of COVID-19 in the country will completely disappear.
“I have not encountered any significant problems. The Ministry has been working hard and the fact we had an extra week means we had extra time to prepare,” Blake-Browne said.