Students facing new norms as schools reopen

After nearly a week of phased-in returns of students across all public schools, all pupils were back in their classrooms Monday where they have been greeted with several new health and safety requirements.

“It feels really good to be back in school and to be able to see my friends,” said Zira Toscano, a Year 11 student who attends John Gray High School.

She and her fellow students have had to adjust to the new sanitisation requirements and social-distancing guidelines.

While mandatory wearing of masks and social distancing have both been lifted in schools, officials still strongly discourage physical contact. Masks are also still required to be worn on school buses.

“It’s kind of difficult because they say we can’t hug each other or touch each other,” Toscano said. “But the biggest challenge is just getting lunch.”

Toscano said new restrictions at the school require that only 10 students be admitted into the canteen to get their lunches.

“The lines normally are very long, and today they were even worse,” said Shana Pitta, who also attends John Gray. “Some people didn’t even have time to get lunch.”

Her mother, Roshenara Pitta, has two other children who attend St. Ignatius Catholic School. She told the Cayman Compass she is having a difficult time juggling the new requirements from both schools.

“It’s very difficult trying to balance between the two schools because my youngest has a different end time and start time, and my oldest has a different start and end time,” she said.

“It’s difficult trying to manage between the two schools because we have two different entrances… I really wish the schools would work on some sort of system that would help to eliminate that traffic.”

When Compass staff arrived on Walkers Road in the vicinity of Academy Way, an area containing three of the largest secondary schools on the island, they were greeted by bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Roshenara Pitta said she believes that, with the right amount of engineering, long queues of cars could be solved. However, she believes the greatest threat is the unseen impact COVID-19 has had on the academic performance of the students.

“Having children in different schools, I can see where the range of schoolwork that was assigned differs,” she said. “I can see where one school was more productive and had more outputs than the other, which was more focussed on learning and reinforcing it with homework.”

“It’s really up to the parents and teachers to identify those weaknesses now that school has started and to get those children caught up as quickly as possible,” she added.

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