New Providence expected to follow suit or resume 75% capacity by week’s end
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — More than a dozen schools in the south-central district of The Bahamas, including five Long Island schools, will welcome their full complement of students today as they return to full face-to-face learning for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Minister of Education Glenys Hanna-Martin said, considering all factors, including the impact of the ongoing pandemic and that of Hurricane Dorian on Abaco and Grand Bahama, there is an urgent need to “safely move to 100 percent face-to-face nationwide”.
“It is an established fact that children fare better on face-to-face and that those who remain in the virtual mode, even in a hybrid model, it’s shown that it impacts the learning rate,” the minister said.
“All of the research says the best way of transmitting knowledge is face-to-face and — bearing in mind the loss during this COVID period of just two years, and in Grand Bahama and Abaco, it has been three years because they had Dorian — bearing that in mind the fallout, we are committed as a matter of urgency to safely move to 100 percent face-to-face nationwide.
“That’s the policy position.
“It has to be done safely in each instance.”
In a separate interview, Director of Education Marcellus Taylor said the smaller schools that are prepared and mobilized and do not require much reconfiguring, unlike larger schools on New Providence, will return to full face-to-face.
The general strategy is as schools are ready, we allow them to go ahead.
– Director of Education Marcellus Taylor
He explained that once the schools’ principals and district superintendents approve, the school can resume full in-person learning.
These include primary schools, where in most instances there is one teacher per grade level.
“The general strategy is as schools are ready, we allow them to go ahead,” Taylor said.
“We will start to see the smaller schools on the Family Islands and I anticipate that on Monday, Long Island will be up and running, all five schools will be probably face-to-face.
“We will see in the south-central district, most of the schools, if not all — we know two of three [that] can’t — but up to 19 or so schools, at least 15 of them will be going ahead with full face-to-face.
“Similarly across the Commonwealth on the Family Islands.”
The director said schools on Grand Bahama were poised to resume full in-person learning, but he could not provide a timeline on when this would happen.
However, he said it is hoped that before the end of the week, if schools have not returned to full in-person learning, they will either have resumed to 60 to 75 percent of their capacity or indicated “their intent of increasing their numbers closer to 100 percent”.
The teacher shortage will continue to present a challenge to the full return, according to Taylor.
Asked if schools required approval from the Ministry of Education to resume full in-person learning, Taylor said the ministry has advised that principals, along with district superintendents, can make the final decision.
He recommended schools form committees comprised of a local union representative, a teacher, school board and PTA representatives and a student, where appropriate, “if they wish” to give input on the school’s readiness.