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JDF carries out full sanitisation at Merl Grove High

WITH more than 300 Merl Grove High School students scheduled to return to the classroom in early March, principal of the all-girl institution Dr Marjorie Fullerton was elated to have the assistance of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) in carrying out a deep clean of the school yesterday.

“I am very happy and the students are happy too. They expressed it, and the parents, too, are happy. We had sensitisation meetings with our parents week before last, and they have expressed that they want the students to be back in,” Fullerton told the Jamaica Observer.

Students in grades 11 through to 13 will return for face-to-face classes as they prepare to sit external Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) exams starting in May, a mandate given by the Ministry of Education at the beginning of the new school term in January.

“We are still not clear on the schedule for CSEC [Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate] exams. CXC would have to announce the dates, but for now they will be coming back and they will be sitting their mock exams which is a precursor to CSEC and CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination).

“We have 125 sixth form students who will be sitting the CAPE examinations, and we have 257 fifth form students who will be sitting CSEC. And based on the Ministry of Health and Wellness’sinspection, we were rated as exceeding expectations for all the requirements that we were asked to meet in order for us to reopen, so we are ready to go,” the principal stated.

The school sought the assistance of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) to reorganise laboratories and the school’s auditorium to fit the social distancing requirement.

Major Alicia Henry, acting commanding officer for the Combat Support Battalion, who is also an alumnus of the institution, explained that the initiative is part of the military’s drive to foster community outreach.

So far, the military has conducted several other such initiatives across all parishes.

“It’s a while now that we have been assisting, even before the pandemic. But since the students are to go back to the classroom we try and do different projects where we help with general clean-up and sanitisation, to prepare for students going back to school. Once persons ask us for help, then we will assist as much as possible,” Henry said.

“It’s not just about going to do the operations and finding the weapons, and finding the wanted persons, but it is winning the hearts and minds of the persons who are in the community. So when we do projects like this, persons see the JDF doing this kind of work, they get to know the JDF and see what we stand for as an organisation. And we think that by doing these projects that we will get persons to have a different mindset about the JDF, possibly turning some of the persons who have the propensity to do untoward things, we can hopefully influence them to come on our side, or to be productive members of their community,” said Major Henry.

Principal Fullerton, meanwhile, also took the opportunity to highlight some of the challenges students had been facing with the lack of Internet connectivity and devices.

Among the grade seven cohort, the principal said there has been up to 84 per cent of students engaged online. Much has been left wanting, however, among the rest of the population, a percentage of which, Fullerton said, has not been engaged since school closed in March of last year.

“There is percentage of students that we have not seen since March, and some of those students are top-performing students. When you look at their averages, if they are not engaging online, if they are not submitting homework or classwork, it affects their averages, and affects their reports.

“And so, it is very heart-wrenching to know that they are out there, and we don’t know where they are and what factors are keeping them away from school,” said the principal, adding students sitting CSEC exams are behind in their school based assessments (SBAs) and technical labs, which they will now have an opportunity to complete.

“They can do virtual labs, but there are other skills that students will be tested on, for which they would have to be in the physical space.

“What most teachers have tried to do is to teach the theory and whenever we are allowed to come back into the space we would have whatever labs the teachers could have done by practical demonstration, those are already covered. But those specific skills that have to be tested in the lab, those will have to wait until they return.

“And so, I am happy that the minister has looked into that, to have them return into the space, and so, we are waiting to see when the CXC exams will be. We have gotten timetables but we are still not sure when the deadlines will be for the labs.

“What we have to do is always be prepared, and so we are trying our very best to cover as much as we can, so that when they return to the physical space, it is only that set of labs that has to be done in the physical space that they will have to complete,” said Dr Fullerton.

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