STATEMENT BY THE
DEPUTY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
DR. THE HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
May 6, 2021
ELMORE STOUTT HIGH SCHOOL
Good day and God’s blessings to the people of the Virgin Islands.
A few weeks ago, during the Seventh Sitting of the Third Session of the Fourth House of Assembly held on April 15, I provided an update on the education sector in which I reported that Cabinet had decided to reduce the six-feet social distancing requirement of six feet to three feet to facilitate an increase in the number of students being able to access onsite instruction in schools throughout the Territory. As I indicated then, this reduction has now made it possible for all primary school students to return to onsite instruction.
I indicated then that the Elmore Stoutt High School would continue to utilise the hybrid/shift modality and gradually increase the number of students daily on campus. I am now pleased to provide an update on the continued operations of the school.
Due to the number of students enrolled at the Elmore Stoutt High School, selected groups from the junior school, Grades 7 to 9 are attending classes on campus, while the majority of students in those grades remain in online classes. With the three feet distance set up, we have now been able to increase face to face sessions for grades 8 and 9 to two sessions per week. The Grade 7 students who need intervention based on their grades will continue to attend face to face sessions one day per week.
I am now pleased to announce that having engaged with the relevant stakeholders, we are now ready to implement the planned shift system to have all senior students attending classes five days a week with effect from Monday, May 10, 2021. Students were previously divided in groups for scheduling purposes so there will be two shifts, with the morning shift beginning at 8:40 a.m. and ending at 11:55 a.m. for groups 10A, 11A and 12A. The afternoon shift will be for students in group B and it will begin at 12:40 p.m. and end at 3:55 p.m. Transportation will be provided for students to move between campuses to attend technical/lab classes.
I wish to remind parents and members of the public that we are living in unprecedented times. As we seek to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that our children will have more on site class sessions, I therefore ask for your continued cooperation and support. We will continue to evaluate our present system and make necessary adjustments to improve as we move forward.
I am aware that some persons have expressed concern about the reduced instructional time for single sessions, but please be assured that we are also considering additional measures to support our students. I also wish to reiterate that students will continue to do practice exercises, homework and other activities when they are not attending face to face sessions. The use of our Google classrooms and other online platforms will continue as teachers will supplement their contact sessions using the platform.
For those students who utilise the Government subsidised bus programmes, please note that the buses will pick up and drop off students to meet their shift sessions. Parents are therefore asked to make contact with the bus drivers to make arrangements based on their children’s schedule. Parents who regularly transport their children to and from school will continue to do so.
With respect to our students from Jost Van Dyke, students will be expected to come over on the regularly scheduled time, be transported by bus from West End and report to school. A dedicated space is being provided for students who will be on the afternoon and morning shift where they can complete assignments until their class time or their departure time. Accommodation has been made for students on the afternoon shift to leave at 3:30 p.m. to catch the 4:00 p.m. ferry.
Parents are asked to note that with the shift system that is being implemented, there will be no need for lunch breaks as it is expected that students on the morning shift will eat lunch after they leave the school campus and those attending the afternoon shift would have eaten their lunch prior to arriving at campus.
I wish to remind parents that we will continue to adhere to the existing COVID-19 protocols including:
- Washing/sanitising of hands at gates/entrances to school;
- Temperature/attendance taken at entrance of school;
- Wearing of masks/face shields to and at school for staff and students;
- Sanitising stations available in hallways and some classrooms;
- Continuous education of social distancing and wearing of masks.
Parents are reminded to provide their children with a personal hand sanitiser.
The school will be circulating the respective schedules via the parents’ emails provided, so parents are being asked to check their emails to ensure that students are aware of their daily class schedules.
I know that this has been a trying time for educators, so as this week is being observed as Teachers’ Appreciation Week, I pause to express my sincere appreciation to all the teachers in the Territory for the tremendous work they have been doing with our students, especially during this period of uncertainty, the COVID-19 era. I thank the Chief Education Officer, the Education Officer and the principals for their unwavering commitment to the education of the Territory’s children and encourage them not to grow weary in well doing. With the ongoing efforts to better accommodate our students, especially at the Elmore Stoutt High School, the principal and staff have had the daunting task of reviewing and adjusting schedules on several occasions during this school year.
As I close, I am grateful to God for how He has been watching over us as a Territory and keeping the number of cases to a minimum and helping our health officials to manage this process. We must continue to remain vigilant as we seek His continued guidance and direction to see us through to the end of this school year.