The Ministry of Education is prepared to accommodate those students who are in need of devices, to facilitate online learning. (Stock photo)

Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, has announced that classes at all public and private schools will be held online when the new school year begins on September 20.

In a statement on the re-opening of school, Minister Bradshaw explained that the decision to do so was taken following consultation with all stakeholders, as Government works to manage the surge in COVID-19 cases.  The latest meeting, which engaged the attention of the teachers’ unions, trade unions, and parent-teachers associations, was held earlier today.

The Education Minister pointed out that authorities were concerned about the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant among the younger demographic, revealing that “we now have over 100 children in isolation across the various sites”.

She indicated that a number of schools may be transformed into isolation facilities, as more capacity was needed to deal with the increasing numbers.  “In the past few days, we had to set up the Blackman and Gollop School as an isolation facility, and I know there are some who believe we shouldn’t be using the school, but the truth of the matter is that this facility has been able to serve the Ministry of Health and Wellness well in the past.

We’ve been able to hand it back over to the school at the appropriate times and I think the situation now warrants that we are able to provide additional facilities for the Ministry of Health and Wellness to get ahead of this particular virus.

“There may be other sites in the coming weeks that may have to be used.  Some of our schools may have to be used.  It is not a measure of first resort, but the truth of the matter is that many of our schools have been upgraded and the bathroom facilities and the showers lend itself to being able to be considered as an adequate facility to be able to house persons who may be sick,” Minister Bradshaw added.

With regards to online learning, she acknowledged that the initial transition had been challenging, but assured that the Ministry of Education was prepared to accommodate those students who were in need of devices.

“Over the course of the next week or so, where we’ve been asking the Information Technology Coordinators (ITC) at each of the schools to work with the parents to ensure that devices which students may have had that may require any … checks for viruses that they’re able to set an appointment with the ITC to either change out or fix those devices.”

She also asked that parents of secondary school children who were assigned devices and had finished school at the end of the last academic year to return those items to the Ministry, so they could be passed on to others.

“I don’t want students to have to start this school term without the use of a device. It is important that we allow our students to have the opportunity to be able to get online, so I encourage parents and guardians not to wait until the beginning of the term to declare that you don’t have a device for your child….  Ensure that you’re talking with the teachers to try to find out when the devices will be available and when the dates and times are being set by the ITCs for the receipt of those devices from the students who have them,” the Education Minister explained.                       

A full briefing on the roll out of the new school term will be held shortly.

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