Physical distancing a concern for educators at Manchester schools

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — School administrators at four schools in this south-central town say students sitting the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) exit exams in July have been adhering to most safety protocols following the resumption of classes on Monday.

But there have been challenges with students practising physical distancing, even as school leaders reminded them of the importance of maintaining their minimum distance of six feet apart.

Principal of deCarteret College Prim Lewis said students are being monitored to ensure they maintain physical distancing.

“The students on Monday had a little challenge with staying away from each other because, of course, the human element of being social beings and being away from each other for three months, so we had to do more monitoring of our senior students than we usually would have done,” she said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

“[It improved] on Tuesday…they weren’t as excited anymore, so they were able to manage the physical distancing a little better, and we had less trouble monitoring them,” she added.

She explained that classes have been going smoothly due to the organisation of staff members and the adherence to protocols aimed at reducing the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.

“We have made preparations for students and their [discomfort in wearing masks], in that we have areas outside [where] we told them that they [can] seek permission from the teacher to step outside, near the cottage and along the grassy areas to go and remove the mask and take in fresh air [then] return to the class,” she said.

Vice-Principal of May Day High School Pauline Brown Hanley, told the Jamaica Observer that checks were done by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Wellness at the institution to ensure that recommended protocols were being followed.

“We have been following all the protocols [and] the ministries of [education and health] have been observing what we are doing. We have been keeping the mandate as to how we schedule our classes in terms of not having all students or teachers here at once,” she explained.

“We keep reminding the students of the importance of physical distancing, despite how they might feel in terms of excitement, seeing their friends, and wanting to hug each other,” Hanley said.

Principal of Belair High School Lawrence Rowe reiterated sentiments regarding students practising physical distancing.

“On the first day we had a major challenge in terms of students not observing the physical distancing… The fact that they had not seen their classmates for over two months, some of them took the liberty to welcome them with open arms literally, so it was a little bit of a challenge for us. But since Tuesday we saw vast improvement in terms of the observance of physical distancing,” he said.

Rowe said students and teachers have been adhering to other guidelines outlined by the Ministry of Health in terms of wearing masks and sanitising their hands regularly.

Principal of Manchester High School, Jasford Gabriel, said approximately 480 students turned up on Monday and about 315 on Tuesday.

“Basically, we are in the 90s [in terms of percentage] as far as the turnout is concerned, based on the timetable for each day…. For the most part we are doing extremely well.”

“The students are very excited to be back at school. They are quite engaged in the teaching and learning process as well. The teachers were always preparing and are doing their part, showing up to do their lessons. We are also streaming lessons,” he said.

“It is kind of a challenge in terms of getting them to stay the six feet apart, but as we continue to educate them, they have been responding in a better way. All in all, it’s been good,” Gabriel added.

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