Se­nior stu­dents head back to class­rooms un­der ‘new nor­mal’

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Paul Clarke/Gleaner Writer paul.clarke@glean­erjm.com

BRIDGE­PORT HIGH School 11th-grader Tianna Fisher was not per­turbed by new stip­u­la­tions de­mand­ing phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing amid the par­tial re­open­ing of sec­ondary schools across the is­land yes­ter­day.

More than 150 high schools were sched­uled to re­open af­ter be­ing shut­tered in March as the is­land recorded its first case of the deadly coro­n­avirus. The re­open­ing is to fa­cil­i­tate re­vi­sion classes for stu­dents sit­ting ex­ter­nal ex­am­i­na­tions and to help them wrap up school-based as­sess­ments for the Caribbean Ex­am­i­na­tions Coun­cil-ad­min­is­tered tests.

‘No mask, no en­try’ was the or­der of the day at Cedar Grove Academy and Bridge­port High schools in Port­more, St Cather­ine, with sev­eral sani­ti­sa­tion sta­tions around the com­pounds and an iso­la­tion room as each pre­pared for any even­tu­al­ity.

NEW WAY OF LIFE

Fisher said that while things have def­i­nitely changed, phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing was a new way of life that she will have no prob­lem with.

“Be­fore now, it was chaotic even at school be­cause most times, I was un­able to pass freely through the pas­sages without be­ing bumped, so I think it is a great way of deal­ing with that is­sue,” she said. “I have al­ready adapted to the new mea­sures and I would urge fel­low stu­dents to quickly adapt to make sure we are all kept safe and in a way, it may also cause us to be­come more fo­cused on our work.”

Dur­ing a site visit yes­ter­day, Ju­nior Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Alando Ter­re­longe praised the lead­er­ship of Bridge­port High, which is among a hand­ful of in­sti­tu­tions still em­ploy­ing a shift sys­tem, for ef­forts to ad­here to the new safety guide­lines.

“It is a grad­ual process, but cer­tainly, the in­ten­tion of the Gov­ern­ment and the min­istry is to make sure that all schools are off this sys­tem,” Ter­re­longe said.

The state min­is­ter also said that he was pleased with what he saw while at Cedar Grove Academy, the only sec­ondary-level school in his East Cen­tral St Cather­ine con­stituency.

“I am very im­pressed with the mea­sures Prin­ci­pal [Lacey-Ann] Blake and her team have im­ple­mented to en­sure all the safety pro­to­cols have been achieved. They have gone above and be­yond to do this,” said Ter­re­longe.

He pointed out that the min­istry had also been pro­vid­ing re­sources to schools to help pur­chase sani­ti­sa­tion equip­ment.

“This is stan­dard across all our schools in Ja­maica and we re­main here work­ing with our teach­ers and prin­ci­pals so should any con­cern arise, then cer­tainly we will con­sider,” he said.

Blake said that Cedar Grove had to mod­ify the stu­dents’ timetable to cope with the new en­vi­ron­ment. Grade 11 stu­dents, for ex­am­ple, de­pend­ing on their vo­ca­tion will be al­lowed to leave school much ear­lier than is the norm. Sixth-form stu­dents will now be al­lowed to at­tend classes three days per week face to face and teach­ers will en­gage them on­line for the re­main­ing two days.

“So far, we have iden­ti­fied 39 stu­dents who by rea­son of med­i­cal is­sues will not be able to part of the face-to-face classes. We have ar­ranged with our teach­ers to cater to those stu­dents by al­low­ing them to join each sched­uled class through Zoom or any other on­line plat­form that the teacher is com­fort­able with,” added Blake.

PHO­TOS BY RUDOLPH BROWN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Bridge­port High School stu­dents ob­serve phys­i­cal-dis­tanc­ing guide­lines as they catch up on the past three months and look for­ward to their ex­ams dur­ing break yes­ter­day.

Ju­nior Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Alando Ter­re­longe looks on as Cedar Grove Academy stu­dent Lechelle Walker sani­tises her hands yes­ter­day as schools across the is­land re­opened to stu­dents sit­ting ex­ter­nal ex­am­i­na­tions.

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