The Ministry of Education may have given the green light for fully vaccinated Forms 1-3 to return to school in coming weeks, but not all children can be accommodated simultaneously given the Covid-19 physical distancing protocols.
“They are going to have to revise the system they now have for the Forms 4-6 because there will be more people in school; there is a level of work principals will have to do,” Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Education Board (CEBM) Sharon Mangroo said in an interview October 12. “That is going to involve rotations,” she explained. Mangroo said principals have been looking forward to having all students back.
During the Budget debate on October 8, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said in the next two weeks, fully vaccinated Forms 1-3 students will be allowed to return to school if all goes well. She appealed to parents to have their children vaccinated. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in August announced the return to face-to-face classes in October for fully-vaccinated children in Forms 4-6. There has however, been vaccine hesitancy by some parents, resulting in low response to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and poor attendance during the first week (October 4-8) at schools. All schools opened virtually September 6. In her presentation, Gadsby-Dolly voiced concern with the widening gap among students. She said approximately 19,000 children enter the school system annually, an estimated 12,000 graduated from secondary school without basic qualifications. The Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to children’s learning being impacted and achievement gap widening.
Gadsby-Dolly is to meet with educators, and others on Thursday, October 14, to discuss the reopening for the lower form classes. Mangroo said, “On Thursday, we will see what principals’ concerns are…everybody’s concern is the same thing which is, ‘Are we ready for this?’. That is going to be the concern, whether we do it this year, or next year, or the year after.”
She added, “We know the time had to come for this to happen, and we know this is where we were heading and some of our schools have been actively encouraging their students to get vaccinated, the students in Forms 1-3, and this is in preparation for them coming out”.
Attendance of vaccinated students in the first week of physical reopening of schools under the CEBM indicated that at Presentation College San Fernando and Presentation Chaguanas there was attendance by 57 per cent and 62 per cent respectively of the Form 6 cohort.
For the Forms 5 students, it was 56 per cent at San Fernando and 80 per cent, Chaguanas. The percentage of Form 4 vaccinated at both schools was more than 60 per cent.
St Benedict’s reported more than 20 per cent of their Forms 4-6 were vaccinated.
St Francis College had 25 per cent of Form 4 present, 21 per cent-Form 5, and 50 per cent Upper 6.
At St Joseph’s College, 21 per cent of the Form Four and 19 per cent of Form 5 were vaccinated. In St Anthony’s College 16 per cent of Form 4 , 24 per cent of Form 5 and 31 per cent of Form 6 attended.
Matelot Community school has four Form 4 students but they are unvaccinated.