BACK TO CLASSROOMS?: Teachers’ union supports schools opening on a schedule but only if it’s safe

BACK TO CLASSROOMS?: Teachers’ union supports schools opening on a schedule but only if it’s safe

Wilson: Vaccination decision should remain with teachers and parents

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — With schools across the nation scheduled to reopen in a matter of weeks and as coronavirus cases surge, Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson said yesterday schools should open on schedule, but must do so safely.

Several models were used amid the height of the pandemic last year to continue education, including virtual learning, face-to-face learning and a blended model of the two.

Belinda Wilson.

“Again, the Bahamas Union of Teachers reiterates the importance of safety first for our teachers, our students and our support staff,” Wilson said.

“There must be clear safety protocols. Class sizes must be decreased.

“There must be proper signage, adequate ventilation for classrooms, the use of masks, PPEs for teachers and the sanitization of classrooms throughout the day.

“Adequate cleaning supplies must be provided for the janitorial staff, and if the face-to-face model is going to be used, then six-feet distancing must be implemented throughout the schools.”

Addressing the media on Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said the reopening of schools is an ongoing discussion with the Ministries of Health and Education.

He said: “I am certain as that discussion advances and monitoring the circumstances and the projections moving forward, they would inform the entire populous as to the way forward.”

Yesterday, Wilson said the timetable and allocation of periods for each subject must also be reviewed.

The BUT president said if the hybrid and virtual models are to be used, the Ministry of Education should review and ensure all tablets and devices loaned to students and teachers are updated and ready for access to and compatibility with the learning management system.

“The Ministry of Education must guarantee a reliable, adequate virtual platform that is accessible to all students and teachers throughout The Bahamas,” she said.

“Teachers should be provided with laptops and all schools should and must have Internet access that is reliable and efficient.”

Wilson said the school curriculum should be made available on the ministry’s digital platform.

She said the ministry indicated to the union that it is reviewing the protocols that were issued ahead of the last semester.


Vaccination “freedom”

As it relates to vaccination, Wilson maintained that the decision for teachers to get the jab remains a personal one.

She was unable to provide statistics on how many teachers have been vaccinated, noting that the union has not performed a survey as it does not intend to “intrude on our members’ personal choice”.

When asked if students should be vaccinated to attend school, as is the case with other vaccines, the union president said that decision rests with parents and guardians.

“Now, if the government goes the route of mandatory vaccination, then the union will get involved because we will make sure we protect the rights of our members’ freedom to choose,” Wilson said.

Vaccination remains voluntary in The Bahamas, though the government and health officials have encouraged residents to become fully vaccinated to protect their lives and others.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.