Education recovery moving forward

With students now settled into the second term post-Ivan, recovery efforts are taking on a slightly different focus.

Chief Education Officer Nyda Flatley said the response team is looking ahead to address such issues as teacher recruitment and retention along with housing.

‘We’re moving into more of a policy phase.’

All schools are in phase two of the rebuilding programme – building and roof repairs – which will continue well into the summer. Portable classrooms are in place at five schools while repair work is being carried out with most now installed. The temporary classrooms can house around 30 students.

The goal is to have schools repaired and ready by the start of the new school year in September.

‘We expect the majority to be ready though we obviously have to be realistic,
said Flatley. ‘We’ve had significant damage to our schools. We will have contingency plans in place if needed.’

The education system was devastated by the hurricane, proving not only costly but extremely disruptive as well.

Most of the 14 government schools experienced damage, with George Town Primary and the two high schools the hardest hit. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean estimates the financial damage to the education sector at CI$44.8 million.

Students were in school less than two weeks when the hurricane hit. The report estimates as much as 64 per cent of the student population directly affected.

To make up for lost curriculum time, officials extended the school day and reduced holidays. As well, regularly scheduled activities such as the National Children’s Festival were cancelled to allow greater emphasis on core subjects. The school year has also been extended to 22 July, though that date is still under review.

While it’s been challenging getting schools back on track after Ivan, Flatley said parents and principals have generally given the revised school day and revamped programming a passing grade.

‘We’re really pleased because we’ve never tried something like this before. We’re trying to get the most that we can out of the school year.’

The revised school day – an 8am start and 3pm finish – will be reviewed before the start of the summer term on 4 April. Flatley noted with some parents and school bus drivers finding it difficult to make the early start because of traffic congestion, flexibility will be given to adjust the time to an 8.15am start and 3.15pm finish where needed.

Shift and rotation systems for Grades 7, 8 and 9 students at George Hicks and for Grade 10 students at John Gray will continue until summer.

‘We’ve had good feedback on the shift system. We’re very pleased the children have been so responsible because we didn’t know how they would take to it.’

Flatley said with schools still in recovery mode ‘it can be challenging and stressful at times. But we have to do what we have to do to get our kids through. We hope parents will work with us and support us. We’re trying to do our best.’

The Education Department is not accepting new registrations for the current academic year as enrolment figures are approaching pre-Ivan numbers, which were already at capacity at most schools.

Registration for the new school year in September will begin in May.