Principals at both secondary and primary schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines have deemed the first day of face to face classes for 2021 a success.
The announcement of the resumption of face to face classes came last Friday, October 29 from the Ministry of Education, which also indicated that some schools will be utilising a blended/hybrid approach.
The standard protocols of sanitising, mask wearing and physical distancing remain in effect as thousands of students returned to the physical classroom for the first time since December 2020.
But principals have also gone the extra mile to introduce other protocols to ensure the safety of their students.
The Layou Government School and Dorsetshire Hill Government School are two of several primary schools that are engaging students using the face to face format.
To ensure minimal contact among students, both schools are now utilising a staggered format for break where different times are allocated for different grades.
But the lunch period remains the same for all grades.
Temperature checks are also taking place on the school compounds.
“We’re following all the protocols that were here before and we would have added a few more on our own so that we could ensure the safety of the children and the teachers.,” Milton Weekes, principal of the Layou Government School told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday.
These new protocols include a no visitor policy on the school compound during school hours.
The Layou Government School has a population of about 248 students.
The principal estimated that a little more than half was at school yesterday.
But Weekes told SEARCHLIGHT that parents appear to be on board with the physical reopening of schools.
“ All the parents who came here today, they were very co-operative so we had no problem whatsoever. We started out well today. I just hope that it continues well in the future,” he said.
Shelly Ann Greaves, principal at the Dorsetshire Hill Government School also gave a similar report of the first day of face to face classes.
The educator noted that she received reports from one of her teachers that it was somewhat of a challenge to get children in Kindergarten to keep their masks on.
But she was optimistic that this issue would be resolved once the students get into the routine of being back in the classroom.
“So far, things have been going well. It wasn’t very difficult today. I thought it would have been a bit of a challenge but I spoke with them this morning and after a while, they will get into a routine,” Greaves said.
The school has a population of almost 60 students and reports indicate that the majority of these students were in attendance yesterday.
The principal also said that all her teaching and ancillary staff are fully vaccinated.
While the Dorsetshire Hill Government School will employ the face to face modality for the remainder of the school year, Greaves said educational materials will also be made available virtually for students who may miss classes for one reason or another.
“We considered using Teams; we can still use Microsoft Teams to upload work there… so both WhatsApp and Teams for students who miss in the event that they fell sick or anything like that,” she said.
In cases where it may not be possible to facilitate face to face classes, a number of primary and secondary schools will employ a blended/hybrid format.
This means classes will receive instruction in the physical classroom on two or three days, and online instruction for the remainder of the week.
But schools have put in the same amount of effort to ensure that teachers and students remain safe. At the North Union Secondary School, principal St Clair DaSantos said several plans have been put in place.
“We have a monitoring plan, we have a plan. We also have a spacing plan in terms of keeping track of the numbers so we do not overpopulate the school,” he told SEARCHLIGHT.
DaSantos added that “…given the location of the school, we have a number of students who walk to school, so transportation is not really an issue for a number of these students”.
Approximately 425 students attend the North Union Secondary School.
The principal said that online teaching and learning may not be the most beneficial for students and he applauded his staff for being supportive at this time.
DaSantos revealed that at least 75 per cent of his staff has received a COVID-19 vaccine and others, in recent times, have indicated their willingness to be vaccinated.
“I’m happy to be back in school because the children are the ones who are suffering, we are all aware of the impact of this cultural shift from face to face [to] online learning,” he said. “I hope that we will get…an increase in the number of people taking the vaccine, even the students…” Like other principals, DaSantos said he did not receive any complaints from parents as students began to return to the classroom.