Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Kay McConney, visiting students at the St. Winifred’s School today to gauge how they were settling in following the resumption of face-to-face classes. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

With the resumption of face-to-face classes today, officials from the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training took the opportunity to tour a number of schools to examine their state of readiness and how the students were settling in.

The schools were St. Giles Nursery; Erdiston Special School; St. Winifred’s School; St. Stephen’s Primary School, The Ellerslie Secondary School and a division of Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary, now located at Belleville, St. Michael.

At each site, officials engaged teachers, ancillary staff and some students who seemed pleased to be back after a lengthy period of online learning that began almost two years ago, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Kay McConney, while at the Erdiston Special School spoke to the state of readiness as she perceived it.  

She said: “Readiness comes in many different forms and it is whether the children are ready; it is whether the parents are ready and the guardians are ready.  It is whether the school plant is ready.

“And, really the Ministry as you know, we have been working tremendously hard to make sure that the part we have to play in getting the schools ready, whether it is the physical plant or it is providing the support that we know people will need as they try to make this adjustment in transition – we have sought to make sure those kinds of facilities are available.”

As she noted the children’s eagerness to be back at school was mirrored by parents’ willingness to serve as school volunteers, she also recounted statements made by Principal of Erdiston Special School, Donna Holder.  

The Minister said it was told to her that parents and children came early, including those who were volunteering.  “They were here from 7:00 this morning, very early. So, in terms of that readiness, you have parents who are coming to volunteer to be a part of this community and to ease the transition,” she said.

Acknowledging that she too saw ‘readiness’ in the faces of parents as they waited with their charges at the schools, and as she engaged them in conversation, Ms.  McConney stressed: “They are happy; they are looking forward to it, and so I just want to say, ‘you know what?’ we have made this step; let us keep pushing through; let us see how the rest of the day goes; let us observe.

“Let us take note of the things that are working well and reinforce those things; the things that are not working so well, let us take that as a gift, and then determine how best we will be able to treat that gift by addressing it in the appropriate way for everyone.”

Students of St. Stephen’s Primary School in the classroom today. (E. Jones/BGIS)

The media were also made aware of the work done by the Ministry and its Education Technical Management Unit.  While commending that Unit, Minister McConney drew attention to the clean environs of the Erdiston Special School and its properly spaced classrooms to ensure social distancing was maintained.

And, she stated: “We have persons here who are from the [Education Technical Management] Unit that had responsibility for making sure these schools were ready. As much as we speak to the Minister we have to understand that there is an entire team, an entire country that’s behind us making this happen and an entire Ministry and so in readiness, it looks as if the children are ready.”

Further noting that the tour team had engaged with janitors and servers, the Education Minister said: “It is going to be an entire feedback loop from all those who are part of the community that will help inform what we do going forward.”

Meanwhile, Chief Education Officer, Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw, expressing the belief that the Ministry made the right decision to reopen the schools today, said: “Based on the excitement that I am seeing coming from the teachers; the excitement that I’m seeing coming from the students, from the principals, we’ve made the right move to have students back at school from February 21, 2022.”

The tour team also comprised Senior Education Officer (responsible for the Nursery and Primary Section), Dr. Christina Morris; Director of The Education Reform Unit, Dr. Idamay Denny, as well as staff from the Education Technical Management Unit and the Media Resource Department.

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