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Parents give schools reopening thumbs down

Parents of public-school pupils predicted that schools would not reopen before the start of the summer break.

Debra James, the president of the Harrington Sound Primary School Parent Teacher Association, said that she doubted the Smith's school would welcome children back before the holidays.

She added: “In my opinion, it will still be a great health risk.”

Education minister Diallo Rabain said on Saturday that public schools would open only when it is safe to do so.

Ms James, who has sons in Primary 1 and P5, said she would feel comfortable sending her children back only when Bermuda had recorded no new cases of Covid-19 “for about four weeks straight”.

She added that she had concerns about remote learning.

Ms James said teachers had more control, pupils responded better, and there was more opportunity for one-on-one instruction in the classroom.

She added: “With remote learning, it shares the information with a broad brush. Some students may catch on while others may not.”

Ms James said that her greatest challenge was the setting of a daily routine that lets her balance assistance to her children with her other responsibilities.

She added that worksheets provided for her older son and engagement with his teacher and classmates on the social-media message service WhatsApp had worked well.

However, Ms James said that the use of videoconference app Zoom had been “a pain” at times.

She explained: “I find the students at these ages simply scroll through looking to see what their classmates are doing.”

Zawditu Maryam, whose daughter is a P3 pupil at Paget Primary School, agreed that remote learning on Zoom had been “a challenge”.

Ms Maryam said: “My child needs attention.

“You've got 13 little faces all needing attention. You can't see 13 little faces on a computer screen.”

She added that her family had good internet access at home, but other parents were not as lucky.

Ms Maryam explained: “I have friends who have to use data on their mobile phone to try and get their child a lesson.

“It's very difficult and costly.”

She said that her child was given four lessons a week, from Monday to Thursday, and occasional homework.

Ms Maryam said that it had been a “struggle ... to try and teach a seven-year-old to sit still, get this work done, in an environment that she's not used to”.

She added that she was also concerned that her daughter was not progressing through the curriculum.

Ms Maryam said: “I don't feel like she's learning anything. It's basically review.”

But she appreciated the efforts made by teachers.

Ms Maryam said: “I think they're trying — and in this, that's all you can expect.

“I'm not expecting them to give me eight hours of lessons. They're doing the best they can.”

She hoped schools would reopen before the summer holidays, but doubted it would happen.

Ms Maryam explained: “It's hard for the children.

“They know what's going on, but I don't think they understand. Their whole lives were uprooted.”

Nkosazana Wilson, whose daughter is a Middle 2 pupil at Dellwood Middle School, said “during the pandemic they shouldn't be open”.

Ms Wilson added that her daughter's teachers had done an “outstanding job” while the Pembroke school was closed.

She added: “I just want to thank them for all that they are doing to keep her learning.”

Ms Wilson said that remote learning had given her the chance to be more “hands-on and better involved” in her daughter's education.

She added: “I receive more information from the teachers via e-mail. So far the communication has been really good.”

Ms Wilson said that remote learning was “very overwhelming, due to receiving e-mails from various teachers and also trying to keep on top of my own work” at first.

However, a new schedule drawn up by the school had “eased up the burden and stress I initially had”. Ms Wilson said that learning support sessions held multiple times each week on Zoom had also worked well.

Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said the Department of Education was factoring in feedback from parents as it moved forward.

She said: “What this feedback has confirmed is that our families differ in their capacity and their ability to support students for remote learning at home while managing work expectations.

“We have also considered that many of our teachers are also parents and face similar challenges.”

Ms Richards said the remote learning strategy included face-to-face lessons on Zoom along with other apps.

She said: “Aside from the various platforms used for direct screen instruction, there are assigned tasks, which include choice boards, project work, computer-assisted instructional programmes for independent work.

“As such, parents have the flexibility to use some of these avenues to have additional work outside of what had been assigned.

“Teachers have a fair amount of flexibility and are responsive to parents' assessment of the needs of their children.

Ms Richards added: “If parents need additional work for their students, our schools stand ready to provide it.

“We encourage all of our families to communicate directly with schoolteachers and principals to discuss their needs, challenges, criticisms or extra support.”

Parents, teachers and students can put forward suggestions, questions or complaints online at https://www.research.net/r/BPSSFEEDBACK

Difficult decisions: Minister of Education Diallo Rabain and Commissioner of Education Kalmar Richards (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published May 11, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 11, 2020 at 7:51 am)

Parents give schools reopening thumbs down

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