As public schools in New Providence, Exuma, Eleuthera and Abaco open and students return to the classroom for in-person learning beginning February 23, 2020, Director of Education, Dr. Marcellus Taylor, appealed to parents to communicate with school officials
and work together as a team for a successful transition.
“We know that challenges will exist,” said Director Taylor. “Colleagues in Grand Bahama, Andros and other islands that have engaged in face-to-face [learning] can attest to this but they have been able to meet the challenges because in those areas they have worked together as a team. I don’t see why in New Providence, Eleuthera, Exuma and Abaco we cannot do the same. Every stakeholder has a role to play. The Department of Education and the Ministry of Education (MOE) are doing our part to make the schools safe and to provide quality education for our children. We call on you to do your part in ensuring that this endeavor is successful.”
The MOE hosted a press conference Monday, February 22, 2021 at its headquarters on University Drive to announce plans for the operation of face-to-face instruction for the aforementioned islands. Senior education officials in attendance included: Lorraine Armbrister, Permanent Secretary; Serethea Clarke, Undersecretary; Julian Anderson and Sharon Poitier, Deputy Directors of Education.
The Ministry closed its school doors on Monday, March 16th, 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, most of the MOE schools in New Providence, Abaco, Eleuthera and Exuma, will open using a hybrid model.
“We want to be very clear that schools opened in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas on October 5, 2020. At that time most of the schools opened using a virtual platform. However, a number of schools across the Commonwealth of The Bahamas were face-to-face from day one. Islands such as Cat Island in the MICAL District and Grand Bahama were face to face since then. What we are doing at this point is permitting the final batch of schools to engage in some form of face-to-face instruction,” said the Director.
The three models presented by the MOE are: face-to face, hybrid, and remote/virtual learning.
“The preferred model for us is face-to face. As much as we can move towards face-to-face that is our intent. We will ensure that our students and teachers and all involved in the education enterprise are safe during the COVID-19 era. But we will never forget what our main remit is, which is to provide quality educational services,” said Mr. Taylor.
The MOE is guided by a Strategic Plan for the Safe Reopening of Schools which was produced at the beginning of the new school year, outlines health and safety measures, and engaged more than 3,000 stakeholders who assisted in finalizing its completion.
In preparation for the opening of schools, the MOE has undertaken the following: intensive training of stakeholders including janitorial staff, implemented a system of daily checks for school bus operators with help of support staff, procurement of high quality, commercial grade cleaning agents and other supplies. Under the hybrid model, students will attend school on a reduced schedule but are expected to engage in learning activities when not in school.
“The learning activities when the students are remote will be either delivered virtually just as they were last week and/or students receiving work from their teachers to take home with them so they can work on it while they are away from school.
“This is very key and critical and we want parents to be aware of this so you are cooperating with the schools, sending your child to school on the days when they are supposed to be there, and also on the days when they are not supposed to be there, making the appropriate arrangements.”
The Director remarked that under the health and safety protocols, the Ministry of Health has mandated that not more than 50 per cent of the student population is in school at any time. The Hon. Jeffrey Lloyd, Minister of Education, said in order to determine
the best way to transition schools in respective islands from remote/virtual learning, to face-to-face instruction, executives in the Department of Education engaged in internal and external consultations and received information from districts and schools that had already returned to face-to- face instruction.
“What that team learned in effect was that the Ministry needed to address several critical areas: health and safety, building equipment and supplies, staffing, transportation, training and care of students. To a very large extent these factors have not only been considered, but addressed. Where they haven’t been that particular school will not recommence face-to-face instructions until they are,” said Minister Lloyd.