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The Ministry of Education has set April 12, 2021 as a “conditional date” for the reopening of schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Therefore, all teachers will be required to return to their respective schools for the period March 17 – 19 from 9 a.m. 3 p.m., the ministry said in a press statement on Thursday.

“The primary concern of the Ministry of Education is for students and teachers to operate in a conducive environment, where all students are able to experience the benefits of quality education. The period March 17-19, 2021 will be used for professional development purposes and consultation on the evolving protocols for the anticipated school term,” Permanent Secretary Myccle Burke said in the press statement. 

Students in SVG have not returned to the classroom for the year, after a spike in local COVID-19 cases since Dec. 28, which has seen 1525 persons contract the illness locally.

Eight persons have died, and as of Wednesday, there are 552 active cases of COVID-19 in the country.

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Burke said that within the ministry’s focus on health and safety, the ministry had agreed to deploy teams to all schools to facilitate the vaccination of teachers during the professional development period.

“All teachers are encouraged to vaccinate in an effort to mitigate against the pandemic,” Burke said.

“The Ministry of Education will be guided by the Ministry of Health and the adherence to the science of the management of COVID-19 on the reopening of schools. Let us continue to work as one people to overcome and rise above the challenges of COVID-19.”

In a communiqué to heads of educational institutions, a copy of which was obtained by iWitness News, Burke said the March 17 to 19 session for teachers will focus on the following:

  • Assessment of students’ online engagement
  • Academic recovery programme where schools are expected to devise plans that focuses on recovering students’ learning loss, particularly the students who were not engaged online
  • Review of the achievements of the online learning and its sustainability
  • Review of the skills and competence critical to delivering online learning
  • Revisiting of the health and safety protocols
  • Recommendations for promotion at the end of the academic year

PM wants schools to reopen

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that he thinks schools in the country should reopen, but that a final decision should be made after consultation with health and education officials.

Speaking on NBC Radio, Gonsalves said that Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache and top education officials would brief the Cabinet on the matter.

“I want to discuss with them the matter of returning to school because other than the cluster which we have had at the Mental Health Centre, the numbers have been falling significantly. And, in fact, a couple of days Sunday and Monday there was zero,” the prime minister said.

On Feb. 26, health officials announced the detection of 23 cases of COVID-19 at the psychiatric hospital.

Since then, at least 103 cases — 94 patients and nine staff members — have been confirmed at the centre, located in Glen.

“So I think that has to be discussed very, very seriously because all of us are concerned about schools not being on,” the prime minister further said about the reopening of school.

Schools in SVG closed shortly after the confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in SVG on March 11, 2020, and remained closed for the rest of the school year, except for students who were taking school-exit examinations.

Students returned to the classroom for the September to December 2020 terms, but have only been taking classes online since then January.

Gonsalves said:

“The parents, the students, the overwhelming majority of teachers — you will always have a small number of teachers who I am told, don’t mind like how it is going.

“But though I find that hard to believe, I want to know who are these teachers. But in any case, the overwhelming majority of all the stakeholders, parents, students, teachers, everybody really want us to get back to school.

“And my personal view is that we can go back to school… I think all the circumstances are propitious. All the circumstances are properly aligned for us to go back to school without us worrying about the, quote, unquote, further spread of COVID.”

The prime minister, however, said that officials “have to make sure that we judge the matter on the basis of the facts and the science, and that is what I’m seeking to do.

“But I will hear what the Ministry of Education officials have to say. I want them to come and tell me in Cabinet what are the reasons, if any, for not going back to school as a matter of urgency.

“They may well persuade me. I haven’t closed my mind. And naturally, Curtis King, the minister of education, his own views are very important and his assessment.”