by Curlan Campbell
- Phased approach takes into consideration health and safety of all concerned
- Principals and school administrators return on 1 June to ensure school environment is ready to accommodate Form 5 students only
- Special arrangement for CXC exams starting 13 July
Stemming from the first emergency virtual meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD), the Ministry of Education announced a phased approach for reopening schools to allow students to sit the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) examinations.
This approach takes into consideration the health and safety of all concerned especially the nation’s children despite the ongoing threat of the spread of Covid-19.
The first phase, according to Minister of Education, Emmalin Pierre, will see the return of principals and school administrators on 1 June 2020, to ensure that the school environment is ready to accommodate Form 5 students only.
Phase 2 will see the return of students in CXC examination classes only, and teachers to onsite classes from 9 am to 2:30 pm. Phase 3 begins 15 June, when all teachers are expected back into the classroom and Phase 4 includes 2 weeks of personal development activity with teachers facilitated remotely by the ministry. Phases 5 and 6 will see teachers taking a vacation starting from 20 July to 31 August, when they are expected to report to work to commence a week of planning for the new school year. The ministry also outlined a special arrangement for CXC exams starting 13 July.
Based on the presentation made by CXC Registrar, Dr Wayne Wesley, the Cabinet of Grenada together with other key stakeholders including members of the Grenada Union of Teachers, principals, members of various school boards and parents, has analysed its unique situation and decided that some exams deemed important will start, while others not deemed important will be deferred.
Minister Pierre, during a press briefing with Permanent Secretary, Kevin Andall, and Chief Education Officer, Angella Finlay, updated the media on the new format for sitting of exams and protocols to be followed.
One major announcement was that Grade 6 students will not sit the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) this year, but will be allowed to advance to secondary level based on a composite score for each student to be derived from the combination of their internal CPEA assessment scores from CXC, Grade 5 minimum competency test score. and Grade 4 minimum competency test score 2018 /19. Another major decision will see the Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence (CCSLC) for Form 3 students be deferred to 2021 despite it being considered an important benchmark examination. While Cabinet has approved for the CXC CSEC examination to commence in July 2020, Minister Pierre said some persons were of the view that the CSEC exams should be deferred to 2021. She explained the rationale behind Cabinet’s decision.
“If the Ministry of Education takes a decision to defer the exams to 2021, the accommodation of students for classes will be a challenge for all schools, limited space and the demand it will place on their teachers are among issues of greatest concern. However, deferred arrangement for students with underlying conditions or special circumstances must be considered,” she said.
The minister was unable to say whether schools can be fully open to accommodate all students for the new school year in September, and could not commit to a timeline for the placement of CPEA students who would be making their transition into secondary schools.
A late start is also predicted for the admittance of CSEC students into the TA Marryshow Community College (TAMCC). Finlay said the college has already begun the application process for students desirous of entering the college. “Once the results are out, TAMCC will then utilise those, so the commitment by CXC is that the results for CSEC will be out sometime in September so it does indicate a late start for students who may want to enter, but TAMCC is also committed to having them get provisional entry based on the scores that are already available for those students.”
The minister said there will be an alternative to replace Regarding the National School Leaving Examination, and that an official announcement will be made to explain the rationale behind the move.
Students are to adhere to 6 foot distancing in the classroom and 12 foot distancing at recess, as part of measures for the phased reopening of schools. The ministry has developed protocols outlining specific responsibilities for principals, teachers and parents that places a priority on health and safety.
Finlay said the greatest challenge to ensure that students adhere to the social distancing protocols will occur during their break and lunchtime. “During the break time, we recommend open space for eating because the mask must come off… and at that time, the distance will go up to 12 feet. So we are encouraging outside eating with packaged meals, nothing in plates and platters,” she said.
Principals hold health and safety briefings with their staff, provide teachers and students with safety information, notify the ministry of asthmatic students, develop a timetable for departure and arrival of students to reduce crowding and ensure a designated room to accommodate anyone showing signs of Covid-19. Teachers are required to ensure that students are reminded to adhere to the social distancing protocol and to keep a daily class register to ensure contact tracing. It will be the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children are sent to school wearing masks and to provide them with hand sanitisers.
The arrival and departure times of students will be 30 minutes apart to avoid gathering. Parents are advised to pre-pack lunches for their children and principals are tasked to determine whether or not a tuckshop can operate. “Having to line up for lunches with distancing will mean a longer time before every child can be refreshed and we do not want to keep them on the school compound for any longer than necessary,” Finlay said.
Parents are also asked to inform the principal of preexisting conditions that may prevent students from returning to school.