Wednesday, July 24, 2024

New semester starts with hybrid learning: schools yet to be fully re-opened


Several schools across Belize re-opened on Monday, January 10th to a hybrid learning system. The system sees some students taking online classes, while others attend face-to-face sessions. The re-opening (particularly in governmental institutions) is considered imperative by the current government, but in San Pedro Town, the only schools offering in-person classes, since last year, are reportedly the private institutions, while governmental institutions still prepare to offer physical teaching.

In facilities like the San Pedro High School, they continue with an initiative started in December 2021, that only allows at-risk students to attend physical instruction while the student body continues online learning. Other governmental schools like Holy Cross Anglican, and the San Pedro Roman Catholic Primary School are yet to start in-person classes. Schools confirmed to be preparing for face-to-face classes are Holy Cross to be opened by January 17th and SPRCS to be opened by January 24th.

Other schools/pre-schools (private) like ABC Preschool, Little Angels Pre School, San Pedro Pre School, The Island Academy and Ambergris Caye Elementary School have started physical instruction. ACES shared that they have been working like this from October of last year. ABC pre-school said they started in October. They all observe strict COVID-19 protocols and at some schools, students have the option to study online if they prefer.

The opposition does not agree with re-opening of schools

The Opposition (United Democratic Party) said in a press release dated Friday, January 7th, that enough time was not been given for schools to adequately prepare and qualify for a safe re-opening. According to the Opposition, the plans for the re-opening of schools were rushed. They also note that the Omicron variant has education officials in many other countries revisiting their guidance and protocols for schools, but the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) guidelines were developed pre-Omicron. The release ends suggesting an extensive list of conditions MOE should enforce, such as vaccination procurement and rollout for students five to eleven years old, continued vaccination campaign for students twelve years and older, providing all schools, especially government schools, with wash hand basins, thermometers, social distancing markers, and disposable masks. The Opposition also mandated regular cleaning and hygiene kits or a financial grant to purchase such materials for the duration of the pandemic. They added that there should be improvements in classroom ventilation by upgrading antiquated designs. Another of the requests includes regular free testing for all teachers and auxiliary staff.

Schools were closed in March 2020 when COVID-19 was first detected in Belize. Re-opening efforts were made towards the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, but were postponed due to industrial action from teachers due to the 10% pay cut and the increase in COVID-19 cases countrywide.

The current figure in COVID-19 cases is on the rise and there are over 4,200 active cases countrywide. Since the pandemic began in March 2020 over 35,800 people have tested positive in Belize and 605 have died. At the moment, San Pedro and Belize City are  two municipalities with the highest number of active infections. This rise in positive cases is being attributed to Omicron, one of the latest COVID-19’s variant.


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