By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
WITH a sustained drop in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks, some parents have expressed optimism that more schools will soon resume face-to face learning.
The Tribune spoke to several parents who said they have no reservations about their children returning to the classroom as long as the proper safety protocols are present.
Among them is Bianca Sawyer who said she is hoping that come January, the high school division of her daughter’s school offers face-to-face learning.
So far, she’s only had notice that those in the early learning division will be welcomed back to the classroom next month. Her daughter has not had the chance to have the kind of experience most children entering high school look forward to.
“I am really hoping for that,” Mrs Sawyer said regarding the restart of in class learning. “I am in kind of a strange position because my daughter is a first-time student at (her high school) and so September would have been her first time there for seventh grade and as you know kids are excited for seventh grade. That’s high school. That’s new beginnings and so the virtual platform — I think while they have been doing the best that they possibly can—it’s still a struggle for her because she doesn’t know anyone. She’s never met the teachers physically and just that whole adjustment of you know feeling a part of something. Not just a virtual setting, it’s a bit challenging for us. So, I am hoping that they can come back and we’re going to allow the high school kids in addition to the primary school kids (to) come back in the classroom.
“Every time you ask my daughter how is school going, she’ll say she hates it because like I said it’s virtual,” Mrs Sawyer added. “She wants that face-to-face interaction. She wants to meet people, sit and get to know her teachers in that setting and so it’s challenging.”
The uncertainty of not knowing if in person learning will restart in January has also created anxiety about getting physically ready to attend classes.
“I am thinking in the virtual setting they don’t wear uniforms. I haven’t really gotten her uniform. If they were to come at the end of the month and say we are opening for high school kids in January that means I have to go out and do all that uniform shopping. Get shoes, get the mask and make sure she is fully prepared so it leaves me in kind of a limbo because like I say we don’t know,” Mrs Sawyer said.
Another parent, Melanie Lewis is also eager for her first grader to get back to school. Ms Lewis’ daughter misses contact with her friends and teachers.
“She does not like the virtual at all,” Ms Lewis said. “She wants to get back to school for every reason. She misses her friends. She said she misses the learning experience with the teachers. She doesn’t like the virtual.”
Asked if she had any reservations about her daughter attending school, Ms Lewis said she has none.
“I want her to actually start immediately. I have no reservations because I had her in school in September face-to-face.
“I don’t have any reservations because her school did a very good job at making sure the campus is as safe as possible. They installed all of the hand sanitizer machines. They wear masks and they are doing a good job at giving them air time. So, no, no reservations at all.”
However, Cara Hunt, a mother of two, said she thinks it’s too soon for children to return to school.
Her son is in the sixth grade.
“As much as I am eager to get my kids out of my hair and get them back into a structured school environment, I think it is much too soon,” Mrs Hunt, a Tribune journalist, said. “At the end of the day the safety of the kids and the safety of the teachers is what’s most important. I prefer them to be home and safe than to try and go back early then you have infections that you have to struggle to get back under control.”
On the other hand, Anieka Hanna is anxious for her children to return to school.
“I would like for them to start as soon as possible, honestly,” she said of her son and daughter.
“Both of them want to be in school right now. I don’t think the virtual is as effective as it can be. The school is doing a good job providing the platform and the teachers are definitely engaged.
“However, it’s difficult to get the attention of kids when you’re not there.”
“Sometimes it’s distraction from another child with whatever is going on in the home that can cause the entire class to be distracted. Also, for instance in the primary school there is teacher’s aid and so if a child or two does not understand a particular topic the aid would stay with the ones that don’t and enforce what was taught.
“With the virtual there is no teacher’s aid and it kinda slows the lessons down as well as you are still not sure who is getting it or isn’t.”
Last month Education Minster Jeff Lloyd said it was possible face-to-face learning could resume in all schools across the country before year’s end. The minister said health officials had indicated it was possible schools could safely reopen with in-person instructions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The development came as Mr Lloyd raised concerns at the time over the fact that 30 percent of registered students were not regularly participating in virtual classes.
An emergency order issued last week said schools can operate with either virtual or face-to-face learning so long as the institution providing the latter service has been given permission from the Ministry of Education.