EDUCATION Minister Jeff Lloyd.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
EDUCATION officials are considering class rotations and limiting face-to-face instruction between teachers and students when the new school year begins, Minister of Education Jeff Lloyd said yesterday.
However, these considerations will depend on the advice from health officials to contain the spread of COVID-19, Mr Lloyd said.
This includes enforcing social distancing guidelines and other hygiene requirements recommended by health officials, he said.
However, the minister said nothing has been finalised as discussions are still ongoing.
Speaking to reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting yesterday, the South Beach MP said: “You can expect that if the health authorities continue to issue mandates as they have been previously, of course, naturally so (such as) physical distancing and other hygienic requirements then yes, the operations of school in 2020/21 is going to change.
“We’re looking at several options at the moment. Naturally, school in the face-to-face instruction will not be the same. So therefore, some form of blended engagement is going to be required. What does that mean and how does that manifest itself? I’m not so sure at the moment. But, we are aggressively looking at it and also consulting with our stakeholders but it does certainly require that if we are going to maintain physical distance of six feet and if we are going to be fair to the citizens of our country, the students in particular, then some form of rotation, shifts or whatever you want to call it is going to have to be implemented.
“And when I say blended, it means that some face-to-face only a part of the day, a part of the week along with the virtual engagement, the virtual school which was excellently administered over the past several months during COVID.”
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.
However, after schools closed, several private schools sent out notices to parents demanding outstanding school fees be paid despite thousands being laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asked yesterday if the ministry was prepared to see an influx of students in the public system due to the economic uncertainty of COVID-19, Mr Lloyd said yes. He also said the government will be providing financial assistance to schools negatively impacted by the global pandemic.
“That means additional financial support,” he said yesterday. “That support is going to take the form of, I believe, at least two applications. One, an immediate injection potentially to assist those who have struggled as a result of non-payment of fees or whatever else and they have to maintain their staff and possible increases in subvention for those schools who again demonstrate that their circumstance requires government’s assistance in that regard.”
Recognising the significant role the private sectors plays in education, Mr Lloyd added: “Listen, we recognise and value and accept the system cannot operate efficiently without the contribution of the private sector. That’s a given. We do not in the Ministry of Education have the physical space to absorb 70-plus thousands of students.
“Right now, we have 46 (thousand) and the rest of it is in the private sector so we naturally need to have the private sector play a role and the government needs to support it. To what form that support will take, as I indicated, it could also be in terms of one time injection as well as increase of subvention and that subvention this year is the total of some $15m.”
The minister was also asked yesterday for an update on school repairs in Abaco, which was devastated by Hurricane Dorian last year. He replied: “Patrick Bethel is probably not going to be ready. It’s no chance for Patrick Bethel to be ready (due) to extensive damage.”
“Number two, the contractor has only been engaged now for approximately a month and the work that is needed to be done, no way it is going to be ready. All the other schools, yes, we are very hopeful, and we expect that will be.
“Central Abaco Primary is going to be ready and they are well about 90 percent on the way so we only have 10 percent to cover in the next two months.”