One hundred and nine schools have been inspected and rated satisfactory by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, as part of the assessments for the phased reopening of schools in 2021.
Speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House on November 25, Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Fayval Williams, said the Ministry has been looking at that list and is in discussions with the principals.
She pointed out that it takes time for the schools to get back on track, despite the fact that principals and teachers and some of the support staff are still on the plant operating.
“You have to get the word out to parents, and parents themselves have to get prepared. Teachers who are at home and teaching from home using the online system, some have their children with them and they would have to seek help and support for those children,” Mrs. Williams said.
“It is a significant logistics job that requires some time, so it isn’t as if we can just get up and say to the 109 schools ‘come back in’. So, we are in touch with the principals to work out how we continue to bring schools back face-to-face,” she added.
The Ministry on November 20, completed a two-week pilot of face-to-face classes in 17 schools.
Mrs. Williams pointed out that the phased reopening of schools will be guided by a risk-based assessment that was used to inform the just-concluded pilot.
“We will continue to look at all the variables we used in the initial pilot, which is community-based, [and] look at the distance the students travel. We look to ensure there is adequate water and adequate Internet,” she said.
“As you would have noticed with the 17 schools, they were spread across nine parishes and so we will continue to use that same methodology, because it has given us useful information to use and refine the process as we go along,” she added.
In the meantime, Mrs. Williams said the Ministry is in the process of looking at the information that would have been gathered by observers of the 17 schools that participated in the face-to-face classes.
“You will recall that… in Parliament I presented an interim report. We are finalising that report; it is going to guide us going forward. One of the major issues that surfaced and that we have to pay attention to is how we handle those cases that present themselves of students having symptoms. So, we have to ensure that the schools are sufficiently resourced, not just in terms of the information but also the physical setting to be able to manage that situation. That was one of the big learnings coming out of the observation of the pilot,” Mrs. Williams noted.