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Dispute Over Start Of School Orientations

By EARYEL BOWLEG

Tribune Staff Reporter

ebowleg@tribunemedia.net

DIRECTOR of Education Marcellus Taylor and Bahamas Union of Teachers president Belinda Wilson were at odds yesterday over the confusion surrounding this week’s school orientations.

Public schools across the country reopened yesterday, with orientation staggered over the course of the week for students.

The orientation process will be in person, however some students can opt out and do it virtually if they choose.

The Ministry of Education’s Facebook page had a number of posts about some public schools’ orientations but a few were either cancelled or postponed.

The director explained that schools themselves develop their own programme for orientation on what they wanted to do yesterday and during the course of this week. However, schools have been asked to cover some key issues.

“We communicate with teachers and school administrators and they were made aware before today of what our expectations were. They themselves have their own programmes in place…” he said.

But Mrs Wilson alleged that the union, parents, teachers and others only heard about a national orientation week through the media.

“For months it has been said that public schools will opened 100 percent virtually, so why is it at the ninth hour we are being told that orientation will be face-to-face? The registration was supposedly completed on the Ministry of Education portal online.

“There’s definitely a disconnect between the utterances of the minister of education and the action of the director of education because the minister is saying one thing in the media and the director of education is doing the opposite sending out information to the contrary.”

She continued her call for clear, concise information that is “practical, logical, and workable” for teachers, students and parents.

Mr Taylor maintained there is a protocol for handling COVID.

“We have in place a protocol, schools know the protocol, they’ve been given the protocol. They are expected to follow it from what I know most if not all of the schools have followed protocol and we solve the matter as quickly as possible and as effectively as we can,” he said.

DW Davis Junior High School had ninth graders on campus for their orientation yesterday, meant to acquaint students with the virtual learning platform.

Principal Nicolette Brown explained there were two sessions for the day and estimated she was working with 100 students in the first one. According to her, the sessions are aimed to inform on aspects of virtual learning.

“We are targeting things like the visual timetable for the students, how to actually use the devices, how to get on to the one-on-one session to better prepare them and equip them for the (virtual) learning,” she said.

“Along with our itinerary, we also sending out written information and it will also posted on our school’s website. Information as to how to get on our virtual platform and any other information that will come up throughout the duration so that parents and students will be informed.

“I’ve just done a survey with my ninth graders who have come in this morning and it appears as if about 85-90 percent of them do have tablets in hand.”

However, one teacher told The Tribune very few of her students have devices. She also said she has experienced technical difficulties at the school.

“I do not have internet service in my room. I have to use my hotspot from my phone…..This is my 4th year and i’ve been using hotspot for classroom purposes for about three years,” she said.

“They have re-wired, however, for the opening of school, at least today the face-to-face orientation, I would’ve expected to have some form of internet but it’s not available as yet.”

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