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Opinion: COVID-19 and school re-opening in Turks & Caicos

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August 12, 2020 – The Press Conference held on Tuesday, August 11 2020 by the Premier and Minister of Education left the public with more questions than answers concerning the  reopening of school.

It’s morally reprehensible that after six months, and with two weeks before the previously announced opening date, the current government cannot provide the students and parents of the Turks and Caicos Islands with a clear and concise plan to safely and effectively provide a learning environment for our children.

This same government has been able to clearly define guidelines for the reopening of bars and pubs, but now we find that it is still unclear how schools will reopen, and if so, how we can be assured that our children will be accommodated in a safe and healthy environment.

We have a moral obligation to get our children back in the classroom.

We also have a civic duty to ensure that once the school year resumes, every student is  afforded world-class learning opportunities.

COVID-19 is but a test of our resolve and as a nation we must stand to, and pass, this test.

As a parent of two school-aged daughters, I share the concern of many parents who are eager for our children to get back in the classroom; but only if it’s safe for them to do so.

We understand that while online learning is usable, is not a replacement for the traditional classroom experience, especially in the case of pupils in the primary years where attention spans are just being developed.

But we cannot send our children back to school without first seeing the Ministry of Education’s plan to keep our children safe.

We as parents demand to see the blue print of the Plan and we should be invited to do a walk through of the classrooms before schools are reopen.

A proposed solution:
Citizens and residents of the TCI please do not despair or give up hope,

There is still an opportunity to save the school year and guarantee safe and effective education for our children.

I would encourage the government to employ a phased approach to the resumption of school to allow a safe and seamless reintegration of students to school life.

Subject to the Ministry of Education’s blue print being reviewed by parents,  allow school to resume for high school students  as planned, with different groups attending school at different intervals to allow for orientation and software dissemination.

At this point, devices can be qualified and requisite adjustments made. Students can then commence online learning as retrofit works are carried out for classrooms and meeting spaces. 

Primary aged children can follow, based on how the high school students cope with the measures, to allow for integration and then the kindergarten years.

Once the online learning has commenced and retrofit works are done, students can then be scheduled to return to school in small groups on shift systems to slowly reintegrate the classroom presence into the curriculum.

The aim should be to have all students receiving at least 4 hours of classroom time per day by a timeframe and at least 6 hours a day by another time frame. It is notable considering the four hours of education as an innovation that in Finland – which leads the world in education success and rankings – children do not begin school until age 7, and then attend only from 10am to 2 pm and yet Finland leads the world in nearly every category in global education rankings. This means we should not just try to cope, but there is an opportunity to reform toward higher success.

The return to classroom learning must not be rushed and it must not be abandoned.

We have a responsibility to ensure that this generation who has been entrusted to us, is put in a position to do better and to take this country further than us. 

I understand the the Minister and Premier may be a bit overwhelmed, but I implore you all to do what is right by the students and parents of this country.

COVID-19 is everybody’s business and an educated society is even moreso.

Submitted by Mark A Fulford

Magnetic Media is a Telly Award winning multi-media company specializing in creating compelling and socially uplifting TV and Radio broadcast programming as a means for advertising and public relations exposure for its clients.

Health

Woman dies on Tuesday; 32nd Covid Death for Turks & Caicos

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos has recorded its 32nd death related to COVID-19.

A Ministry of Health press release informed that the individual who was in quarantine in Grand Turk and requested emergency aid on Tuesday; response came from the public health team in Grand Turk.

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.

 

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Bahamas News

Cruising should slow down says PAHO

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

‘Slow down on Cruising’, that’s the word from the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO in their latest recent press conference.

Dr. Ciro Ugarte Director of Health Emergencies at the PAHO was referring to the Bahamas but made sure to note that the advice was highly relevant to many countries in the times of omicron.

“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.

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Caribbean News

Understanding Sargassum with help from the TCI’s Department of Environment & Coastal Resources  

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By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer

 

#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.

Environmental Outreach Coordinator at the Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources for TCI, Amy Avenant, says the Turks and Caicos Islands has not seen the worst of the overgrowth.

“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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