Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Karl Samuda, says a risk assessment of trends in the new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases is being done by health officials to assist in determining whether the proposed phased reopening of schools for the 2020/21 academic year, beginning September 7, should proceed or be delayed.
“If the cases continue to spike and it is deemed unsafe for students and teachers to physically return to school, we will have to reassess [the situation] and put in place contingency plans to face that eventuality,” he said.
The Minister advised, however, that the Ministry will engage stakeholders in dialogue on the matter before a final decision is made.
“We will hold consultations with [the] Jamaica Teachers’ Association, National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica, Ecumenical Church Group, Jamaica Independent Schools’ Association, the Jamaica Prefect Association, the National Secondary Students Council, and representatives of tertiary institutions, among others,” Mr. Samuda said.
He was speaking on the third day of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association’s 56th annual conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St. James, on Wednesday (August 19).
Mr. Samuda said the Ministry and, by extension, the Government are aware that teachers are anxious to return to the classroom and that parents are keen on sending their children to school, come September.
He noted, however, that the Administration is mindful of the latest developments with COVID-19 cases, which he said are being carefully monitored.
“We are guided by the Ministry of Health and Wellness as we seek to ensure that all students and teachers are safe as schools reopen next month,” the Minister added.
Mr. Samuda emphasised that the safety of the nation’s teachers and students is of paramount importance, adding that while face-to-face interaction in the classroom environment is essential, “the Ministry will not put the health of its teachers as well as students at risk”.
“It is the responsibility of a responsible government to ensure that the safety of the teachers and the students take priority,” he further stated.
He informed that if the upsurge in Covid-19 cases continues, the Government will have no choice but to delay the phased reopening of school.
Mr. Samuda further indicated that the Ministry will continue to meet with teachers in order “to be kept aware of what’s happening out there”.
He advised that the Ministry is continuing preparations for the upcoming school year, pointing out that these arrangements are in the final stages.