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Officials exploring several formats for reopening of schools

Officials exploring several formats for reopening of schools
Some of the temporary classrooms that have been built along the runway of the former E.T. Joshua airport for the St Vincent Grammar School and the Girls’ High School.

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Education authorities are exploring several instruction formats for the reopening of schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) as the proposed date draws nearer and the country continues to experience a spike in positive COVID19 cases.

“School is scheduled to be opened on the 4th of October, and we in the Ministry of Education… are working towards that date. What we cannot tell you is the format in which the schools will be reopened,” Curtis King, the Minister of Education said last Thursday while speaking on StarRadio.

King noted that online teaching has become a part of the daily discourse since the start of the pandemic, which has significantly impacted face-to-face instruction.

This means then that a distinction has to be made when speaking about the reopening of schools.
The Education Minister said schools can therefore be opened with a blended approach where some students are schooled online, while others continue with the face-to-face format.

There can also be face-to-face only or online only formats.

“So, we see how the discourse is changing,” King said.

In the first 19 days of September, this country recorded over 400 new cases of COVID19 infection and has seen an increased positivity rate well over 5 per cent. There are currently 16 persons admitted at the Argyle Isolation Facility for care.

An additional three COVID19 related deaths have also been recorded this month, bringing the total count to 15.

King said the spike “obviously has implications for the format in which school will be reopened” noting that schools have been severely impacted since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March 2020.

He added that most Vincentian students have not received face-to-face instruction since January 2021, which has resulted in significant learning loss.

“Despite the efforts of online instruction, I keep making the point that it is not a perfect substitute for face-to-face instruction so our students have experienced a great learning loss… “The ministry and the schools are working on a recovery programme that I believe will run over a couple years, to try to recover some of this learning loss,” King said.

Minister King also said that the loss is not only academic but psychosocial as well,and if students were to continue outside of school, it can continue to impact them in a negative manner.

Speaking on NBC Radio last Wednesday September 15, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves pointed out that the positivity rate was increasing and this would have some bearing on the scheduled October reopening of schools.

“Anywhere the positivity rate is consistently above 5%, you’re calling for particular regimes,” he said, adding that he has learnt that half the tablets provided to students were not working, as adults had taken them over and used them for certain purposes. This has to be investigated, he pointed out.

The government last year provided around 30,000 tablets to students at various levels of the education system for use in on-line learning.

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