Face-to-face classes resume May 10 for exam students

Students scheduled to sit exit exams this year will, as of May 10, resume face-to-face interactions with their teachers, but their counterparts in lower grades will have to wait a while longer, the Government stated yesterday.

This as authorities continue to steer the island out of a second wave of the novel coronavirus, which engulfed the country in February, while trying to avoid the perils of a third wave.

“We understand what is happening…as soon as we can allow our children to go back to school we will. The only way that this is going to happen, however, is if we get our population vaccinated,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in the House of Representatives yesterday evening following his announcement that the country will remain under tightened curfew hours and restrictions for at least another six weeks.

In the meantime, the way has been cleared for the approximately 39,000 students registered to do the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) Ability Test scheduled for May 26 to return to classes.

This also applies to the 13,951 public school students and 101 private candidates registered to sit the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE); the 45,174 public school students registered to sit the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams, along with 1,162 private candidates, scheduled for June 14 to July 16, 2021, with orals and practicals to commence June 1.

Also returning to classes will be the 24,000 students registered for the City & Guilds exams, August 10 to 11, as well as the 16,000 students registered to sit the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) exams scheduled for June 7 to 11.

“You can see that we will have a significant population of our youth moving about,” the prime minister said, noting that due to the pandemic a significant number of the current exam cohort had lost approximately one year of face-to-face instruction and guidance.

He said only 15 per cent of schools with CSEC candidates and 15 per cent of schools with CAPE candidates have over 70 per cent of their school-based assessments (SBAs) completed.

The Caribbean Examinations Council, following agitation by the education ministry, has granted extension for SBAs to be submitted by June 30 without penalty. For project-type SBAs the deadline for submission is June 18.

In the meantime, the prime minister said all COVID-19 prevention protocols will be enforced at schools, adding that strict adherence on the part of school officials is expected. He said provisions have been made for the dispensing of grants for acquiring material and resources needed by schools.

At the same time, he emphasised that not all students will be on the move all the days.

“A whole day rotating resources is going to be implemented commencing May 10, and this is to facilitate face-to-face engagement of students. This means only a subset of the cohort will be at school each day, while others work remotely. We are not proposing that the entire cohort of exam-sitting students come to school all at once. Schools will be given a schedule so they can rotate attendance; this is also to ensure that we don’t have crowding on public transportation,” the prime minister said.

He also said approximately 7,500 teachers have been already vaccinated, emphasising that this is not nearly enough.

“But we do have a critical corps…we have plans in place to vaccinate other teachers and that will commence on May 6, 2021,” the Holness said.

He also told the House that the more than 355 schools that are to be reopened will be inspected thoroughly before the resumption of face-to-face classes.

Holness stressed that, except for students sitting exit exams, there should be no other face-to-face instruction in public or independent schools.

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