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TCI: New Minister announces Return to School for All Students with New School Hours

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#TurksandCaicos, March 17, 2021 – All Students of the Turks and Caicos Islands will go back to school in five days; March 22nd is when the new Education Minister said a grand scale simulation-styled exercise will take place ahead of Easter.

“Mr. Speaker, we will also use this opportunity before the Easter Break to get students readjusted to their classes. Also, teachers, school administrators and the Department of Education will have the opportunity to identify any potential issues and work diligently to resolve these kinks over the Easter break,” said Hon Rachel Taylor, Minister of Education, Youth, Culture, Social & Library Services.

Hon Rachel Taylor during House of Assembly yesterday delivered the anticipated news and says she expects schools will review the test run, make adjustments and be ready for all students to return to school after the two-week Easter holiday.

“All students will return to face to face learning!  Some people are in awe!  How will it happen?  Mr. Speaker we are cognizant of the health protocols and the requirement for social distancing and we have taken into serious consideration all of these.  All schools will be allowed to function up to 200 children in a blended approach of face-to-face and online learning,” said Minister Taylor to thumping support from her parliamentary colleagues. 

Easter break said the Minister, who is a former primary school principal, will be used by officials to iron out any kinks in the system.

“In instances where students will be attending face-to-face classes, the following school operating hours will entail: In Primary Schools, 8:30 am to 2:30 pm; in secondary schools:  8:30am to 3pm.  Mr. Speaker, this is needed in our country in order that our children maximize best use of face to face delivery.”

While the announcement is refreshing, even welcomed for thousands of residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands, there is some ambivalence, including parents who are concerned for their higher risk children with medical conditions which make acute symptoms if they were to contract the coronavirus likely. 

To Magnetic Media, Educators wonder about logistics when it comes to classroom set up and news of regular testing for Covid-19.

There are others who say disappointments in the past give them pause before any revelations are made to their online-learing-wearied children; fearing a change in the current downward infection trend could force the Ministry of Education to rap-back the plan.

A change by the Ministry, at this point however, appears to be unlikely.  The plan as pitched by Minister Taylor does not lend to reversal nor does it prescribe a cookie-cutter return to face to face learning.

“The school administrators would be permitted to use and adopt any strategy which suits them but I must emphasise at any one time, only 200 students would be permitted in face-to-face classes, while the remainder of the students will continue to join classes remotely and alternate from time to time.”

There are some blanket rules; no more than 200 students permitted on premises at a time and all other protocols including mask wearing, santiser stations, handwashing stations, physical distancing and log books are non-negotiable.  The idea is a blended approach, which means some students in class, some students on virtual platforms in a remote learning style.

In her presentation, the Minister explained that it was long past due for there to be wider consideration of the impact on children of being out of the school setting for such an extended period. 

“Sometimes we only concentrate on those students who are preparing for examinations when we forget those children in the lower cohorts; infant, grade one, grade two, grade three but we want to give them the opportunity and allow the administrators to determine what is best allowing students from all grades to have an opportunity to seek learning face to face.”

Turks and Caicos campuses first closed due to the threat of Covid-19 in March 2020 during the Easter Break.  Some students have not been back in a classroom since.

Several false starts, namely in September 2020 and January 2021 have fostered doubt, but the Minister, who took office officially on February 22 said it is time for children to return and the decision is fueled by the desire of the People.

“These are exceptional times that have required all of us to take swift action and make drastic changes to our professional and personal lives to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.”

The presentation was made in the House of Assembly on Tuesday  March 16, 2021 in the afternoon session.

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

Cayman gets its second ‘Sir’; former Premier Alden McLaughlin knighted on Jan 1

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Cayman, January 20, 2022 – Former Premier of Cayman Alden McLaughlin was knighted at the start of 2022; named in the Queen’s New Year Honors List. He is only the second Caymanian to have ever received a knighthood from her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Sir Vassel Johnson, received the honour in 1994; he was Cayman’s first Financial Secretary; he died in November 2008 at the age of 86.

Current Governor, Martyn Roper extended congratulations saying, “This is an outstanding personal achievement for former Premier McLaughlin, one of the most important and impactful political leaders in Cayman over the last 21 years. It is a significant moment for our islands. This historic award is only the second ever Knighthood to a Caymanian since the first in the 1990s. It is a strong signal of the respect in which Cayman is held and a visible demonstration of the progress Cayman has made as a vibrant democracy with strong good governance foundations.”

Sir McLaughlin, who is also now a QC attorney, served two terms as premier and had a career in politics that spanned 21 years. McLaughlin is known for his role in modernizing Cayman’s constitution.

Current premier G. Wayne Panton described the occasion as a unifying moment for the country saying, This is a day of celebration and great pride for all Caymanians as a son of our soil has been bestowed one of the highest honour.  Today marks a new and most unique storyline in the history of the Cayman Islands.  In considering the rarity and magnitude of this occasion, this is certainly a unifying moment for our community.”

Sir Alden McLaughlin, 60, was appointed as a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George on January 1, 2022.

 

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