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Catholic schools managing but stress supervising children

Photo source: St Mary's College Facebook Page

Strict adherence to health and safety protocols has so far prevented reports of infections at Catholic schools under the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM). “Our seven [secondary] schools have been managing very well,” Sharon Mangroo, Chief Executive Officer of the CEBM told the Catholic News. The CEBM also has oversight for 118 primary schools in the Archdiocese.

The Board provided an update to Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly at a meeting on November 26. Ministry officials have been meeting with education interest groups to discuss the operations of schools for Term I 2021/2022 and recommendations for the operations of schools for Term II 2022.

Mangroo said: “The greatest stress is supervision of students at all times. This requires teachers to teach plus supervise as the students need constant reminders to wear their masks properly and maintain social distances. This is leading to some teacher burnout”. Outlining points highlighted at the meeting, she said there is a “discrepancy” between the number of children needing devices as reported by principals and the means test data. Many parents are unable to complete and submit the test for different reasons such as lack of documentation, poor literacy.

Functioning of Mifi devices, substitute teacher system, and principals unable to access temporary replacements for teachers were also raised. Parents have to be reminded to take care of devices as there were reports of damage and after a weekend, children having no data for when they have classes. Mangroo said the flexibility the Ministry has given principals to manage their schools has contributed to successful management even in the midst of the stresses. “While not ready for physical inclusion of Forms One to Three or Standards Four and Five at the school, principals have asked for the leeway to bring in small groups of students who are not managing satisfactorily in distance mode.” According to a release issued by the Ministry on November 26, stakeholders expressed satisfaction with current arrangements for Forms 4–6 and those with special needs. It identified major concerns related to: close supervision required to ensure that students do not breach safety protocols; the request that results for Covid-19 testing of school personnel and students be given priority; and the rotational system arising out of social distance requirements, which limits school attendance even for the Forms Four to Six cohort.

The release stated: “With regard to recommendations for the operations of Term II 2021/2022, stakeholders generally recommended that schools be allowed to operate as per Term I 2021/2022, where only Forms Four to Six students attend physically, with the possibility of Standard 5 attendance to be considered. A major factor influencing this recommendation is the increased student and teacher absenteeism being experienced due to the rise in positive Covid-19 cases nationally, and the resulting quarantine requirements.”

By Lara Pickford-Gordon