The Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) was among the interest groups which met with Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and officials of the Ministry January 7 to discuss the draft plan for the reopening of schools Term 2.
The Ministry has proposed a phased physical re-opening which includes the return next month of students of Standard 5 and Forms 4–6 preparing for examinations.
Prior to the meeting, the Chief Executive Officer of the CEBM Sharon Mangroo collected feedback from the six principals of secondary schools under the CEBM and vicariate managers who relayed responses from the principals of RC primary schools on the plan.
Mangroo, who is also chair of the Association of Denominational Boards of Education (ADBE) subsequently had a virtual meeting with its members.
A number of concerns were highlighted to the Ministry and recommendations proposed by the ADBE. A summary of these was shared with the Catholic News via email.
The association would like to see the medical response team at schools beefed up. It has referred to the provision of two nurses for each education district as inadequate especially for education districts such as Port of Spain and St George East which have many more schools than other areas.
The ADBE has noted that the 340 denominational primary and 43 secondary schools are not assigned Safety Officers and there are currently no appointed personnel whose duties include doing temperature scans on students, staff or visitors entering schools.
The suggestion was made for standing temperature scanners to be supplied.
These can be set to alert when a temperature reading exceeds the recommended range. The relevant information may then be recorded, and follow-up action taken as per guidelines. The scanners may be placed in suitable areas within the school compound that allow for easy but safe processing.
The large number of persons entering makes the use of a hand-held scanner cumbersome and exposed the person scanning to increased risk and the process of recording all temperatures for persons entering was tedious.
Logistical challenges are created since some schools have entry points located close to busy roads thereby exposing persons to traffic, ultraviolet rays, and rain, creating congestion in public space, and delays to enter.
The ministry was asked that any staff or student displaying “flu-like” symptoms should be given clearance by the District Medical Officer instead of the District Nurse assigned to the school. Clarification of ‘flu-like’ symptoms was needed and specific, observable symptoms identified.
Monitoring of student attendance for online classes requires sufficient staffing. However, the ADBE pointed out that several schools are yet to have Heads of Departments appointed. It suggested these appointments be made immediately.
Commenting on student absenteeism, the ADBE informed that this was often due to lack of devices or connectivity, and “students’ discouragement”.
In addition, several schools reported “instances of students, especially in higher classes, working, in order to assist parents who have lost jobs”.
Curriculum delivery is a challenge with the volume of work expected to be completed under the present circumstances. Parents, including some who are teachers, have complained that the workload is so heavy, children are being deprived of breaks. Parents have stated they must take time off from work to supervise children during the day and homework has become an “additional burden”.
The ADBE has asked for the establishment of “a mechanism for effectively addressing parents’ concerns”. The Ministry was asked on behalf of principals to make a strong statement on the selection of synchronous classes as the norm because some teachers are abusing the system “by simply posting work online for students but not conducting actual classes”. —LPG