By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
AMID uncertainty surrounding the re-opening of schools, some parents say they want officials to consider resuming face-to-face instruction, but with strict health guidelines. The parents say they do not support the implementation of a blended learning environment.
This comes after Education Minister Jeff Lloyd told reporters on Tuesday that officials will make an announcement next week on the changes that will be implemented for the upcoming school year.
He said officials are considering implementing a blended learning environment, one that will include class rotation and limited face-to-face instruction.
“We are looking at three models of school reopening, one of which seems to be the more prominent choice that will probably inure to the benefit of students this coming September,” he told reporters outside Cabinet.
“One, full educational instruction, which is unlikely, if we must maintain physical distance and the various health protocols remain in place as they are now.
“Two, what we call a blended or a shift circumstance, where a part of the day or a part of the week some students and another part of the week or day, other students – those who would be otherwise out of instruction classroom will then be transported to a care centre still under the supervision of the Ministry of Education.”
He continued: “And then finally, another model that we’re looking at is 100 percent virtual school. The middle model…the blended model or the shift system is the one that more than likely we are going to choose to go forward.”
However The Tribune spoke to several parents who said they did not support the particular blended learning model.
One concerned parent, who only wanted to be identified as Mrs Higgs, said she will not support the move due to job restraints.
“I know that this blended environment won’t work for me at all. My husband is on the boat and I am at work. Who will take care of the kids when they are home and should be doing classes? We now have to consider who is now going to leave their job.
“There is no money to home school or provide a babysitter, so what to do? School is not a babysitting club but the way it was designed, we relied on it as a safe environment for our kids to be while we are at work.”
Another parent, who asked to be identified as Mrs Smith expressed similar comments to this newspaper, saying she does not believe the model will be particularly effective for students in kindergarten.
“(I have) twin boys. They are in K4 going in K5 in September,” she told The Tribune.
“I am not 100 (percent) for (the blended environment) because I feel like the children need to be in the classroom to fully learn. Well, let me speak for the little ones. I don’t think Zoom really worked for their age bracket. Their attention is only there for so long and then of course you have some households where parents have to work so there is no one to watch the child so that’s another thing.”
As a mother of young children, Mrs Smith also said she would like more clarity on what sort of preventive measures will be taken to ensure that her children remain safe for when the fall semester starts.
“I am more concerned about the risk factors of young children with those masks on all day. First off, it’s hot. Secondly, you could imagine I send my child to school with a blue mask and then he comes home with a green one.”
“Children accidentally bring home sweaters or a book by accident sometimes and so a mask isn’t much difference.”
In March, the government mandated the closure of schools after the country recorded its first COVID-19 case, resulting in many local institutions shifting to online classes to allow students to continue their studies at home.
Since then, there has been much uncertainty on how schools across the country will reopen for the fall semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Bahamas Union of Teachers president Belinda Wilson said the union has yet to receive a plan or framework from the Ministry of Education for the reopening of schools.
However, in a statement released on Monday, the Ministry of Education said: “... The allegation made that the MOE has no plan for the schools is untrue… persons are also informed that the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in governments across the world reassessing and fine tuning responses to various aspects of the crisis.
“The Ministry of Education has been no different, and the Department of Education’s staff is currently in the process of crafting its plan for the reopening of the schools, and for the development of other major plans.”
Mr Lloyd said this week while he understands parents and students are anxious to know the ministry’s plans on the re-opening of schools, there is still much uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“...Plans are being finalised this week and an announcement will be made and disseminated across the spectrum of the Bahamas early next week and all parents and students and others will be clearly informed as to what,” he said.
“Bear in mind that as we stand here today, we are looking at more than likely eight weeks before schools open so I know that people are anxious to know how schools are opening and I also would like to invite people to check and see that there’s not a single school system on this planet who can tell you with confirmation and conclusion exactly how schools are going to open in September.”