#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – August 12, 2020 — Staggered, blended, virtual, online, face-to-face, rotation and now hybrid have entered the vernacular as descriptions of how children can learn in this ‘new normal’ forced upon the planet due to the rampant spread of COVID-19.
The Turks and Caicos Islands is considering a blended or hybrid approach to formal education in the public sector, which was today explained by Edgar Howell, the Director of Education.
“What is being proposed in the draft guidelines that have been prepared is that a group of children will come in for a number of days and the other children will continue on line during those days and then another set will come in while that first group will continue online,” explained Edgar Howell, TCI Director of Education today during a Media Q&A hosted by the ministry.
This is not a shift system, therefore teachers will not have to repeat lessons to new groups of students each day and the methodology is apparently a favoured approach.
“The school administrators as well as teachers for a particular classroom would be the ones to assist us in that area. You would know that are a certain amount of students that can fit into a classroom at that time. The teachers would know which students are able to go online and be a part of the class as well as those who would be able to be in the classroom setting, so this is avenue, the way we’re looking at it when it comes to blending the classrooms,” said Karen Malcolm, the Minister of Education.
The Ministry of Health has recommended that desks be spaced six feet a part to uphold global standards for physical distancing in the midst of the pandemic.
Mr. Howell explained that an audit of school resources has informed the recommendation in the draft ‘Guidelines and Protocols for Returning to Schools’ about the hybrid or blended approach to schooling.
“The audit helped schools to begin to look at how many students they can accommodate in a classroom, how they will then look at time-tabling and that was done sometime in early July. We have the feedback from them, so they have an idea of how many students they can accommodate at a time within the school setting and then how many students will have to be online and how they rotate those students in,” said Mr. Howell.
The audits revealed that at a maximum, only 12 students can fit into a properly physically-distanced-classrooms in Turks and Caicos schools.
Despite the research, the possibility exists that there will be no return to face-to-face learning in time for the start of the 2020-2021school year.
“Principals have worked through and continue to work through how that will happen, if we were to return children, physically to the classroom…” said Mr. Howell.
At least one private school, Mills Institute has decided to continue online teaching only for its primary school from nursery to grade six.
In a letter to parents dated August 12, Mills Institute located in Providenciales, has also informed that its daycare will remain closed.
The Media Q&A was held at the Office of the Premier in Providenciales with Sharlene Robinson, TCI Premier and Wesley Clerveaux, Permanent Secretary of Education also in attendance.
Woman dies on Tuesday; 32nd Covid Death for Turks & Caicos
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos has recorded its 32nd death related to COVID-19.
The person, who we are told is a special needs young woman – was unvaccinated and had underlying medical conditions.
The death rate in the Turks and Caicos of both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons has climbed alarmingly this year. In the 21-month period from March 2020 when the country recorded its first case to December 2021, there were 26 deaths recorded in the TCI.
In the 19 days since the start of 2022 that number has increased to 32; which means six deaths already in January.
Cruising should slow down says PAHO
By Dana Malcolm
‘Slow down on Cruising’, that’s the word from the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO in their latest recent press conference.
“In the context of intense transmission, due to the Omicron variant as we have highlighted several times. It is just logical to suspend or at least limit the cruise ship traffic as an outbreak on board might end up exceedingly high and probably will go beyond the capacity of local health services”
Both the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos are experiencing a massive uptick in cases and several warnings regarding cruise travel have been issued by the US Centers for Disease Control.
Cruising just resumed for many regional countries this past Summer, Turks and Caicos was among the latest to restart on December 13.
A stop to sailing would be devastating to economies, however, ports of call like Grand Turk which are reeling with rocketing case numbers of COVID are urged to consider the suggestion of slowing down on ships by PAHO.
Understanding Sargassum with help from the TCI’s Department of Environment & Coastal Resources
By Sherrica Thompson
#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – Sargassum, also known as seaweed, is a natural brown macroalga that lives in temperate and tropical oceans of the world. The floating micro eco-system is important to many species, including baby turtles, little crabs, and tiny fish. All these animals use the floating rafts of the sargassum for protection, shelter, and food.
Over the years, sargassum has been increasing its quantity in the Caribbean due to climate change. As water temperatures increase, sargassum blooms, and as this continues, it occurs in large amounts. This can be dangerous for some marine life because when seaweed washes up on the shore, some species become trapped in the sargassum mat.
“In the Turks and Caicos Islands, we have not seen the full severity of sargassum blooms. Our neighbours in Bonaire, for example, experience up to six feet of sargassum, and they have found stranded dolphins, sea turtles, and sometimes even birds,” said Amy Avenant.
“When the sargassum washes up on shore, it starts to decompose, and when it decomposes, it emits methane, and that is the stinky sulfuric eggy smell that you can smell when you walk past it on the beach. It is a bad thing for climate change because of the methane, but it is not harmful to your health.”
Turks and Caicos saw this in extreme amounts in October; so severe, resorts were forced to bag and bury the stinky seaweed which for over a week covered the usually sandy white stretch of Grace Bay beach.
Avenant noted that in the TCI, we have a balance between managing the influx of sargassum and impacting the areas where it lands because its influx is correlated to the cycles of the moon.
She also said sargassum can be used as a fertilizer in farming. If you collect it, the advice is to spread it out and ensure you wash the excess salt off before adding to your gardens or farms.
There are also hidden dangers and habitat threats to the piles of sargassum on shorelines.
Avenant informed, when you see sargassum on the beach, ensure you watch out for wildlife that might be stuck and species which might have made a home of the ocean’s deposit which has washed up, this is heightened on rocky shores.
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