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Thousands home in Virtual School until February; Senior High only back on Monday announced TCI Education

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#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – On Thursday, the Ministry of Education announced that the majority of the 7,400 students in the TCI will remain out of classrooms until February, unless there is a satisfying drop in the Covid-19 cases.

“Coming out of our consultations with the technical advisors in the Ministry of Health and having considered all of the variables, the Ministry of Education wish to inform the public that Phase 3 of the Roadmap to return students to face to face classes will commence on Monday, 17th January.  In this phase high school students in Form 5/Grade 11 and students in Grade 12/Sixth Form will resume face to face classes. In addition, children enrolled in Day Care Centres that are registered with the Ministry of Education as Day Care Centres may continue in a face to face mode. Students in all other grades will continue virtual classes until Friday, 28th January 2022,” said Minister Rachel Taylor, who delivered the hard news in a press event Thursday (January 13) morning.

Only fifth and sixth form high school students will be back in classes on Monday (January 17) and that is primarily driven by the facts that one, these youngsters have critical exams for which to prepare and this cohort of students have the lowest Covid-19 infection rate.  All other students, over five-years-old will remain out of schools and on virtual learning.

“I would like to inform the listening public that, based on our data, the rate of infection among secondary school students is low in comparison to that of primary school children.  Hence, these findings support the Ministry of Education’s decision to return students of Form 5 and 6 to in person teaching, because we anticipate that the older students will exercise more adherence to the COVID 19 Health Protocols,” said Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education.

New, in an effort to fend off COVID, that students can be randomly tested if their parents sign off on a consent form to be provided by the MOE.

The planned antigen testing is for students returning, on January 17th, to the classroom.

“In preparation for the return of the senior students, schools will arrange classrooms to achieve maximum distance between each student. The Ministry will be seeking parental consent to test students randomly so as to maintain as safe an environment as possible for teachers and students. If a student has any flulike symptoms they must remain at home until the symptoms have subsided. If a student tests positive for Covid-19 or is a member of family where another member has been placed on quarantine, the student is to access classes online until a quarantine order release has been issued. Parents of students who will be returning to face to face classes are urged to adhere to this protocol to mitigate the spread of the virus.”

The ministry said they will repeat what happened at the start of the 2021-2022 academic year, train teachers to conduct the rapid antigen tests.

“Next week, that is the week beginning January 17th, two teachers from public schools on Grand Turk, South Caicos, North and Middle Caicos will be trained to use the Antigen Test, as a result all government schools will have teachers who are equip to administer Antigen Testing.  Private Schools who are interested in having their staff trained, kindly speak to your school’s supervisor so we can see how best we can accommodate you,” said Mr. Garland.

Licensed and registered daycare centers will carry on as they have been;  open to children up to five years old.

“In addition, children enrolled in Day Care Centres that are registered with the Ministry of Education as Day Care Centres may continue in a face to face mode. Students in all other grades will continue virtual classes until Friday, 28th January 2022.”

The ministry has asked employers to work with staff who will need to manage the virtual learning of their children.

Telecoms companies:  Flow and Digicel and two resorts:  Pine Cay and Amanyara were thanked for their support in the area of internet connectivity, internet affordability, provision of devices to hundreds of children including a new investment from the Pine Cay project which supplied over $18,000 in internet services for the next 30 days for some 750 students.

All were labelled platinum partners with Education by Minister Taylor.

 

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Education

Public Sector Honouree dies, Deputy Governor remembers Isabelle Adams

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#TurksandCaicos, January 19, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos Islands Civil Service mourns the loss of its first Establishment Secretary Mrs. Isabelle Adams who sadly passed away on Tuesday, January 11, 2022.

Mrs. Adams joined the Turks and Caicos Islands Public Service on August 1st, 1965 where she served in various capacities as Clerical Officer and Secretary to a number of Government Boards and Committees, quickly advancing to the post of Acting Clerk of the House of Assembly before rising to the highest rank in the public service as the first local Establishment Secretary of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

She retired on March 31st, 1990 after giving 25 years of faithful and dedicated service to the Turks and Caicos Islands Government and was awarded the Queen’s Badge of Honour.

On September 20, 2019, Mrs. Adam’s was honored during Civil Service Week 2019 as a former Head of the Public Service for her distinguished service to the Turks and Caicos Islands Government and people.

The Turks and Caicos Islands is grateful to Mrs. Adam’s for her service, her hard work, dedication and commitment to these islands.

We extend our deepest condolences to her family on her passing and pray that her soul will rest in eternal peace.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time!

 

Her Excellency Anya Williams

Deputy Governor and Head of the Public Service of the Turks and Caicos Islands

 

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Education

Education Minister announces Platinum Partnerships for internet and tablet program amidst COVID surge

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By Shaniek Smith

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – Schools did not resume in person learning in the Turks and Caicos on January 4, instead it was back to virtual classes for 7,400 children in the British overseas territory due to an omicron-driven surge in Covid-19 infections.

It was announced on the New Year’s Day holiday for TCI, January 3 in a press conference hosted by Rachel Taylor, the Minister of Education, and attended by Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and supported by Premier Washington Misick, who was also at the live event.

In a promised update, parents got the not-so-good-news, virtual classes would resume at least until the end of January due to the surge and staff shortages being experienced.  Turks and Caicos, up to Thursday January 14 had over 800 active cases, five new deaths and a 600 per cent increase in hospitalisations.  The Minister said the decision was in the interest of safety.

The Minister also promised to get devices and internet to students in order for them to participate in learning during this virtual-only season.  The press conference on January 13, welcomed partners Flow, Digicel and the Pine Cay Project.

In her address, chair of the Pine Cay Project, Marie Landel, said that an urgent call from Dr. Carlton Mills, a member of their board of trustees revealed that about 750 students would be without internet connection and devices.

The Pine Cay Project responded to that information and has agreed to pay for internet for 30 days students, with its partner in the initiative, DigicelTCI.  It is an $18,000 investment in education continuity for hundreds of children.

“We had strong discussions on what we should do with the money that we collect every year, so yesterday we agreed to the funding in emergency situation of 300 internet connections and devices that are going to help the students in need, and we’re very proud to be able to act quickly,” Landel expressed.

Additionally, the Marketing Manager at Digicel TCI, Mr Drexler Smith, said Digicel has partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide about 1,000 tablets for public schools. Smith added that 75 MiFi devices valued at 7,000 dollars were provided; they come with free data services for up to three months for students in need.

Digicel has also created a special education plan for e-learning with specific zero-rated sites and applications. The company partnered with Pine Cay and other private entities in this regard. Various schools and educational facilities in South Caicos, Five Cays, and Providenciales have benefitted from laptops, data plans, MiFi’s, and e-learning kits.

Marketing Executive Flow TCI, Darron Hilaire, also shared the contributions Flow made to the education sector since the pandemic.

“Within the last three years, Flow TCI, through our charitable foundation, would have donated $130,000 worth of ICT equipment to 2 schools respectively in Grand Turk and in Providenciales for the outfitting of the new computer labs to help facilitate the ministry’s vision to foster an efficient e-learning environment for students,” he said.

Mr. Hilaire added that within the first year of the pandemic, Flow responded to requests from the Ministry to increase the bandwidth to public schools in the TCI. Hilaire said Flow home internet speed doubles automatically at no cost to its customers in early July.

He said that within the last 60 days, Flow TCI announced a recent donation of $25,000 dollars to two schools in North Caicos and one in Providenciales. The donation was in aid of increasing connectivity and infrastructural upgrades.

“As we come to the end of this phase of the project, our objective is to look at doing the same for other schools in the second phase of the projects to further arm our schools with the access to technology to provide the best quality education to students,” Hilaire added.

Amanyara Resort, not present at the press event, was said to be working on additional laptops for hundreds of children despite having already donated to several schools in Providenciales.

Minister Rachel Taylor and her team, including Eugene Grant, ICT Education Officer at the Ministry of Education and Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education thanked the donors; they were labelled Platinum Partners by the Minister.

 

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Caribbean News

JAMAICA: Red Carpet Welcome for St. Ann’s Bay Primary Students

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#MontegoBay, January 14, 2022 – The administration of the St. Ann’s Bay Primary School in St. Ann welcomed back its students on Monday (January 10) in fine style by rolling out a red carpet.

The entrance to the school was transformed into a glamorous space using balloon arrangements, to make the first day of face-to-face learning since the advent of the coronavirus in March 2020 an extra-special occasion for the students.

The children were greeted by school principal Trevor Cole, teachers and members of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), as they strolled down the red carpet to their respective classes.

Speaking with JIS News, Mr. Cole stated that the gesture was geared towards motivating the students and “allowing them to feel appreciated and to know that we’re here ready to facilitate them for their learning and development.

“…we welcomed them in style because we wanted them to feel special. They would have been home for so long and we believe that it is absolutely important that our students get a sense that the school to which they come to learn is excited to have them back in this space,” Mr. Cole said.

He says it was a seamless return to face-to-face learning, owing to hours of strategic planning to devise the best possible approach to accommodate the students.

The school usually operates on a shift system and has a student population of 1,066.

“We have spent long hours planning, refining, reviewing and just trying to find the best possible approach. Yes, we have always had a space challenge, and that compounded the problem… but we have had to do some retrofitting to existing spaces to facilitate our students,” he said.

“I believe this opportunity will enable us to see more of our students, so that we can continue with the business of teaching and learning and ensure that our students at a primary level are sufficiently equipped to move on to the next level, which is high school,” Mr. Cole added.

The principal informed that while a blended rotation model is being utilised, he is happy students will have the opportunity to interact with their teachers.

Three grades will be accommodated at school each day, while others will continue learning online.

“Our grade-six students will be here for the entire week but they will come on a rotational basis, meaning that group A will come one day and group B comes next day and it is rotated. So there will be a balance in terms of online and face-to-face instructions,” Mr. Cole explains.

“We have also paired grade five, with grade six to enable them to be here every day for the first month of school and then for today (Monday) and tomorrow (Tuesday) we’ll be facilitating grade one, and Wednesday and Thursday we will be doing grade two. The next week, grades five and six will continue and then we will integrate the other grades, that is grade three and grade four,” the principal said

He added that there will be strict enforcement of the health and safety protocols, including mask wearing, social distancing and proper washing of hands.

Meanwhile, students and teachers have expressed joy to be back in the classroom.

Grade-five teacher Adrian Henry was happy to interact with his students in the physical space, noting that they have suffered significant learning loss due to connectivity issues.

“It is a pleasure to be back in the classroom. One of the ways students will benefit from this is real-time feedback. No glitch in connectivity, no delay in WhatsApp messaging, no checking Google Classroom…; if there’s an issue with teaching and learning then all matters can be resolved immediately,” Mr. Henry indicated.

Grade-five student Leonardo Harrison revealed that he is happy to see his friends and teachers.

“Now that we are going into face-to-face, I can see my friends and also I can learn better because the online was no good… .  Also, when teacher is sending the work it takes a long time to come in… . So face-to-face is good; you could see the board and you could learn better,” he said.

 

Contact: Nickieta Sterling

Release: JIS

 

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