On January 4, thousands of Jamaican students from 132 schools across the island returned to physical classrooms to start the new school term.
But as the ministry celebrated the phased reopening, the National Parent Teachers’ Association of Jamaica said that they are not in agreement with children going back to school.
The president of the association, Mitsie Harris-Dillion says the government is taking a big risk with the lives of students by putting them back into the classroom.
“It is a concern for us. We are definitely not in support of any face-to-face learning right now. We believe that the focus of the government should be on increasing connectivity for our students to remain in remote learning,” she said while on a local news program.
“There no way that the country is ready to be exposed to face-to-face learning. We know that a few schools may have the capacity, but as it is right now, we haven’t even received the protocols for public transportation.”
She said that the association had proposed that at least 70% of the student population be tested before they were back in the classroom.
In the meantime, Education Minister Fayval Williams has reassured parents that it is safe to send their children to school. She said that the government implemented a safe reopening program in the selected schools, stemming from the pilot program.
“We have been very careful with our decision. We’ve had a pilot in which we demonstrated that we could work with the ministry of health to implement a safe program that could give parents the confidence to send their children to school,” she said.
The ministry of education had introduced a pilot program in November where 17 schools across the island were reopened for face-to-face classes. The ministry later announced that the program had been successful as no cases of COVID-19 were reported among the students and staff at the schools.
Ministry officials visited several of the schools on day one and day two of the resumption of physical classes. Williams says the Education Ministry will continue to do routine checks to ensure the schools maintain the protocols.
“I’ve been please so far with the visits to schools. They have been careful. You can see that the schools have been planning for the reopening and it gives us confidence that students who are on campus and in the classroom are there safely. But I want to remind parents and teachers that all the approaches are still available so students can still be online and accessing their lessons.”
The ministry also plans to roll out a mobile student support initiative on January 18 to focus on the students who may have been left being in classes last year.