EDUCATION Minister Jeff Lloyd in the House of Assembly.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
EDUCATION Minister Jeff Lloyd yesterday outlined the extraordinary changes public school students and parents could expect when classes resume this fall while stressing that the resurgence of COVID-19 means national exams have only been suspended, not cancelled.
“It is imperative that all examination candidates continue their preparation for the exams,” he said. “Parents, students and all others are advised that this suspension is not a pass to relax efforts toward exam preparation. These crucial examinations, which serves as substantial credentials for students, will be administered as soon as clearance is given by the competent authority.”
Mr Lloyd said public schools will reopen on September 21 as they usually do and will feature three instructional models: face-to-face, hybrid learning and online learning.
He said parents who choose the online learning model will have to register with the homeschooling unit of the Ministry of Education.
“While more students can be accommodated in a virtual classroom, we are aware that this is not the most ideal learning option for our pre-primary, lower primary or special education students,” he added. “We further recognise that between 9am to 3pm Monday through Friday, our schools provide safe spaces for many of our children. With online learning, that duty of care shifts to the home or others and must be well managed if learning is to be successfully carried out. We further recognise that some parents and guardians are not equipped to assist students as needed and some students are unable to self-regulate. With this in mind we invite our community stakeholders, to consider providing flexible working hours for our parents and guardians, so they would be in a better position to spend more time at home between 9 am through 3 pm.”
He added: “There will be at all times, even concurrently, a blend of these models. Let me be clear, The Bahamas is an archipelago – with schools in many different environments. Therefore, one size does not fit all. What works best in one scenario may not be best for another. It is possible, for instance, that the Euthal Rodgers Primary School in Deep Creek, South Andros, with an enrollment of less than 100 students, would be able to engage in a face-to-face daily model of learning throughout the day, week and year. In some schools, face-to-face will work. In others it will not. For instance, in schools with larger student population, and with the necessity of observing all health protocols, face-to-face cannot work. We simply do not have the space to accommodate the total student body. If the spread of this virus abates, we will be able to proceed with the entire student body attending the school campus every day, all day. However, no matter what we do: the required health and safety standards will be rigidly observed and enforced.”
He said masks will be worn, classroom capacity will involve 20 square feet per students, there will be staggered lunch times, general assemblies where crowds gather will be cancelled, multiple entry and exit points on campuses and additional buses to transport students to and from campuses will also be used.
“We recognise that some of our educators who have pre-existing co-morbidities and who may not be available for face-to-face instruction in the midst of COVID-19 would have to continue to utilise our online platform to assist with delivering instruction,” he said. “Additionally, we will have to redeploy some of our teachers according to their specialised skills in order to meet needs in certain specialised areas.”
As for the hybrid model, Mr Lloyd said a schedule has been worked out to ensure that on any given day no more than two thirds of a school population is on campus.
He said: “There will be face-to-face everyday, for some groups on students. All groups will attend three days per week. The three days that students engage face-to-face are allotted for delivery of content: here the teacher presents new information or a concept to students; differentiated instruction, the teacher assigns tasks to students according to their needs; guided practice, the teacher gives on hand direction to reinforce concepts taught; assessment, students’ are evaluated in person to ensure they truly master the content. Further details of the schedule in this model will be made available to parents and students in the coming weeks.”
Mr Lloyd said the new school term will begin with remote learning and may transition to a blended model over time if possible.