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So far, so good

February 7 was the first day of physical school for Forms 1–3 secondary school students. The return was an adjustment to normalcy with all classes now represented at schools; the upper Forms 4–6 students have been at school on a rotational basis since last term.

The Principal of Presentation College, San Fernando, Dexter Mitchell said, “all in all, things went pretty well”. There was a lot of excitement and “a little anxiety” among the students who were at school for the first time.

He visited the classes for the new intake February 7 and 8 to welcome them. “They said they were home all this time and prefer the physical school…I think it was more of optimism and excitement.” Children also voiced fears about Covid-19.

He told them they must keep their guards up against Covid, wearing their masks and maintaining physical distancing. He acknowledged that while the protocols were reiterated, vigilance was still required.

“At times, you will still see them bunching up a little bit, something you cannot get away from. It’s a cultural shift, but all in all so far things have been okay,” Mitchell said February 9.

The attendance figures for Day 1 were as follows: Form 1 – 50/54 students, Form 2 – 52/58, Form 3 – 53/60, Form 4 – 52/58, Form 5 – 52/62, Lower 6 -35/43, Upper 6 -36/58. The turnout overall was 84 per cent, 330/393 students. The Education Ministry in its ‘Guidelines for Re-opening of Schools Phase 3 Term 2 2021-2022’ has instructed that student population, at any one time, be based on social distancing protocols, previously determined attendance schedules, and capacity of schools to provide adequate supervision.

It provided four models using a rotation system. On February 7 and 11, orientation was conducted with assistance from guidance counsellors from the Ste Madeleine Secondary and Gasparillo Secondary.

Mitchell said, “We did not go straight into teaching. We allowed teachers to take them to tour the compound because most of them don’t know the school.” There were parents present to see their children off. “We had to assure them ‘don’t worry the boys will be okay’.” Deans and Heads of Departments were visible to direct students to their classrooms. The Forms 3s also had to be assisted. “Their whole Form 2 year was away plus the first term of Form 3.”  Mitchell said clubs have restarted. The scouts had an investiture service for 12 new members. “They placed the scarf on them, and they took the oath.”  The environmental club had their election.

At St Benedict’s College (SBC), there were classes for all lower forms on February 7, 9 and 11. The total number of lower Forms were 329 students. Attendance percentages for the three days were 78 per cent, 83 per cent and 81 per cent, giving an average of 80 per cent attendance.

SBC had orientation on February 7. Students were given a tour and sessions with the Principal, Dean and Form teachers. On Friday 11, the Form 1s had an enrichment programme which consisted of virtues, lab safety, mental Math, and abacus training. Prizes were given to the winners.

Principal Gregory Quan Kep reported, “The discipline was very good, and the students were well behaved. Most of the students came in full school uniform.” Concessions were made for a few.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) conducted a survey February 7 of its 118 primary schools. The responses from 82 indicated there was 69.5 per cent attendance in Central, 79.1 in Eastern, 81 per cent in Northern, 80 per cent in Southern and 83 per cent in Suburban.

The Ministers of Education, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and Lisa Morris-Julian with officials of the Ministry of Education visited schools in East, North and South Trinidad.

According to a release from the Education Ministry, on February 8, the first day of visits the team “was heartened by the enthusiasm and excitement of the students; especially those in Forms 1 and 2 who were entering their physical schools for the first time since sitting the S.E.A.”

Levels of attendance, implementation of safety protocols and general readiness were assessed by Education Ministry officials. —LPG