Rising COVID numbers to mean return to online classes

May 16, 2022
The current rise in COVID-19 numbers may force schools to return to online classes.
The current rise in COVID-19 numbers may force schools to return to online classes.

Mitsie Harris-Dillon, interim national president of the National Parent Teachers' Association (NPTA), says school administrators should consider a return to online classes should the cases of COVID-19 continue to increase.

The latest data published by the Ministry of Health and Wellness indicates that three in every 10 persons who were tested for COVID-19 returned an adverse finding. Some 2,999 persons have died in Jamaica from the virus as last Friday.

The rise in the spread of virus, said to be fuelled by the highly contagious Omicron BA.2 variant, last week led to at least three schools returning to online classes.

Harris-Dillon yesterday told THE STAR that if the numbers continue to climb, school administrators may have to reconsider online classes.

"As it is right now, there are not many choices available, save and except what we have been experiencing and accustomed to for the past two years; be it virtual classes, blended forms of instruction where students alternate in order to reduce the headcount of students on campus at any given time," Harris-Dillon said.

"This is something that schools need to look at, they along with the parents and PTA [parent-teacher association] and other stakeholders," she added.

The acting NPTA head suggested that where a school recognises that the number of confirmed cases are increasing, and is impacting the school population, the administrator should make the decision to move classes online. However, she noted that online classes could negatively impact students' ability to get instructions from their teacher. She pointed to a statement from the Minister of Education last month, which revealed that more than 32,000 students have not returned to the classroom since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

"There are those of our students who don't have any kind of access to online learning, so it is important that schools, along with parents, along with the PTA, the alumnus, continue to work together to find the most meaningful solutions under the circumstances, because the learning loss has already been quite huge and we really need to pull out all the stops to ensure that our children get the education that they deserve. At the same time you cannot sacrifice health," Harris-Dillon said.

In the meantime, Dr Brian James, president of the Medical Association of Jamaica (JMA), reasoned that the country's public health experts are in the best position to determine whether a return to online classes is necessary, if the COVID numbers continue to rise.

"They should be able to look at all the factors involved, look at how severe the variant is, look at the incidents of admission to hospitals, and then craft recommendations based on that," James said.

He added: "There might be strong, severe outbreaks in various schools and that might prompt people to close the schools. It is difficult to say what the long-term effects of this particular sub-variant, so it really should be up to public health experts to say keep schools open or close them," James said.

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