Published 1 May 2020
Buckie Got It, St. Kitts and Nevis News Source
Gwendoline van Putten secondary school has the largest student population in St. Eustatius. (File photo)
ST. EUSTATIUS–All schools in St. Eustatius will gradually reopen from Monday, May 11, Government Commissioner Marnix van Rij announced. The primary and secondary schools on the island had closed their doors due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic since March 30.
The decision to reopen the schools was made after consultations between the public entity St. Eustatius and the principals and chairpersons of the school boards on Tuesday, April 28. Compulsory education officer Nadjeska Henriquez also provided feedback.
As there have been no new active COVID-19 cases in Statia since the first two positive cases were detected and the strategy of containment has been successful thus far, and considering that the island has been virtually locked off from the outside world and has not been under a total lockdown, with travel only allowed for essential workers and acute medical emergencies, the schools advised the public entity that they could gradually reopen on Monday, May 11, Van Rij said.
Gradual reopening means that all schools will implement a schedule for their pupils and students that will allow them to participate in classroom sessions in smaller groups. Schools will provide their pupils and students with rosters of their lesson plans and schedules. These will vary per school.
Social distancing will be implemented inside the schools by having a smaller number of pupils/students participate in the lessons. Extra sanitation supplies will be present in the classrooms. School breaks will be arranged in small groups, with the children spread out throughout the school compounds. They will not be allowed to cluster together as schoolchildren are used to doing.
Most schools have maintained sanitation during the closure and will continue the upkeep until the restart of schools. School buses will transport small groups of pupils/students and they will accommodate different schedules. Parents will also be required to play an important role and will be asked to assist in the transportation of their children.
The commissioner said this means that employers will be asked to work with their employees and grant them 15-20 minutes to pick up and transport their children.
Another important consideration to reopen the schools is that the medical capacity on the island will be significantly improved by May 11, when the Hospitainer can be put into use.
“Each school has carefully thought out their plan to suit their situation and will work [these – Ed.] out in more in detail in the upcoming week. Of course, the reopening of schools is contingent on the situation remaining as it is now. If nothing changes, such as if there are no new cases of COVID-19 discovered, then this plan will be implemented until the first week of July, when the start of the long summer break begins,” Van Rij said.
Van Rij and Deputy Government Commissioner Alida Francis thanked the schools for their “great cooperation, insight and readiness to work out plans they believe can work to ensure education in these unusual times,” and thanked all parents and guardians for their understanding and cooperation.
“We have also understood from the schools that the parents have been extremely important and instrumental in making a success of the online/distance learning,” Van Rij said.
He said long-distance learning had worked relatively well. “All schools had prepared themselves very well,” he said, adding that he and Francis had been “very impressed” with the schools’ professionalism in implementing online learning.