The resumption of schools has been pushed back to October 5 amid a worsening spike in coronavirus cases in Jamaica.
Schools had been closed on March 10 and were expected to resume classes on September 7.
The ministry cited “unforeseen challenges” for the reopening, but that was likely linked to heightened concern on Thursday over 98 new infections, a record one-day jump in the island. There were, up to Thursday, 1,290 confirmed COVID cases.
The ministry said, in a statement issued Friday, that it still intended to press ahead with its “blended approach” model, which involves face-to-face classes learning and online and televised learning.
Between now and September, the ministry will finalise the distribution of tablets to teachers and students at the primary level and complete the procurement of laptops for students on the Government’s PATH welfare at grades 10-13. T
The ministry said it would also activate the Google Suite Learning Management System for all schools. Training will be provided.
Emotional and other support will be provided for students, teachers and parents, and printed learning kits will be distributed.
Many parents across Jamaica are now contemplating homeschooling for their children out of fear that they might contract COVID-19 if they return to school, the education minister has said.
Karl Samuda said that the coronavirus crisis could be complicated because children are often silent carriers – those who are hosts of the infection but don’t manifest symptoms of the disease.
“They go about running up and down the place and they don’t know, you don’t know, nobody knows,” said Samuda, while addressing the just-concluded annual conference of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association in Montego Bay, St James.
“They just go to school and come home and grandma and grandpa get affected, and after that, the whole family gets into chaos.”
Samuda said that in a “case very close to me”, a family with three children is considering homeschooling because of external risks to relatives in their 70s.
“They are contemplating homeschooling because they cannot run the risk of the children bringing the virus home,” said Samuda.
Jamaica has recorded a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the last three weeks, which has delayed the September 7 phased opening of schools for the Christmas term.
As at Thursday, August 20, Jamaica recorded 1,290 COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths.
The derailing of the resumption of school came days after Samuda said the new academic term would commence as planned.
“The only thing that would cause a delay of school is if we continue to have unusual spikes,” Samuda said, while admitting that he was deeply concerned about the emerging crisis in St Thomas, where six communities are currently under quarantine. Nineteen others are under scrutiny, the health ministry has disclosed.
Samuda has, however, issued a word of caution to the growing interest in homeschooling. The education minister has urged parents to inform his ministry of homeschooling arrangements so that proper supervision can be done.
“This will ensure that students can be reintegrated into school should the decision be taken at a later stage by the parents or guardians to put them back into the public-school system,” Samuda said.