With public schools on an extended midterm break due to COVID-19, the leader of the Department of Education Services has outlined government’s response to COVID, attested to the effectiveness of remote learning in public schools, and stated that the unavailability of a number of high school teachers led to the closure of Grand Cayman’s public schools.
DES Director Mark Ray made his comments in a video statement.
Ray said schools have prepared for a switch to remote learning, including developing individual learning plans for students, providing modems to students with no Internet access, and familiarising students with online resources and tools.
He said the provisions were proven effective when COVID spurred the closure of George Town Primary School and “approximately 258 households signed on for the initial session using government issued-laptops”.
“Despite the effectiveness of remote learning there will be instances when this may not be the recommended approach. Such was the case recently when the Ministry of Education decided to bring forward the midterm dates of its schools in Grand Cayman,” Ray said.
“The Ministry took this approach when 16 high school educators who teach multiple classes were either in isolation or being tested while others were assisting with the coordination of testing with Public Health for several primary and high school classes,” he said.
All schools are set to reopen after the midterm break on 25 Oct.
Meanwhile, the Health Services Authority issued the schedule of COVID testing for students, teachers and their families identified as primary contacts of positive COVID cases in schools.
Here is a transcript Ray’s remarks:
Over the past few weeks our public education system has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 virus. Since then our educational institutions have implemented several measures in accordance with the COVID-19 guidance issued by the Ministry of Education in September to provide our children with a safe learning environment and guarantee quality education if required to shift to remote learning.
Accordingly schools have developed individual educational plans based on students’ specific needs in a remote learning scenario. They have also identified steps to address digital equity gaps including support to provide modems for students without Internet access and most in need of assistance.
The Ministry of Education and Department of Education Services have identified learning platforms and other digital tools that will be used during online learning. The schools have introduced our students to these platforms and online resources and drafted additional guidance to parents on their use.
The effectiveness of our remote learning provisions was tested and proven in mid-September upon the activation of remote learning at George Town Primary School and approximately 258 households signed on for the initial session using government issued-laptops.
Despite the effectiveness of remote learning there will be instances when this may not be the recommended approach. Such was the case recently when the Ministry of Education decided to bring forward the midterm dates of its schools in Grand Cayman.
The Ministry took this approach when 16 high school educators who teach multiple classes were either in isolation or being tested while others were assisting with the coordination of testing with Public Health for several primary and high school classes.
As we anticipate the reopening of schools on October 25th the Ministry of Education and the Department of Education Services stand committed to ensuring the safety of our educators and the more than 5,000 children entrusted within our care. As such schools will continue to observe enhanced health and safety protocols.
These include the frequent deep cleaning of high-traffic areas such as canteens, the rearranging of classroom seating to maximise the distance between students, and the requirement of staff and students to wear masks as outline in the Ministry’s guidance and the COVID-19 regulations. Schools have also stocked masks and hand-washing supplies, scheduled playtime on rotation to reduce the number of students and staff in close proximity, and switched off water fountains to encourage children to bring their own water bottles for use.
We urge you to talk with your children about the importance of physical distancing and other safety measure and reach out to your child’s schools with questions or concerns. For our part the Ministry of Education and Department of Education Services will continue to adhere to the prescribed safety measures and follow the advice of our public health officials to ensure the health and safety of our children and our educators.
Here are two government web pages with COVID-related information:
To download the COVID-19 Guidance for Educational Institutions, visit http://www.exploregov.ky/coronavirus-education.
For additional COVID-19 information for parents and guardians, visit https://www.exploregov.ky/faqs/september-advice-for-parents-guardians.
Here is the press release from HSA on COVID testing: