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Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), Vijay Maharaj

Anna-Lisa Paul

One day after Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby Dolly listened to concerns associated with the return of students in Forms One to Three from the T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) – similar sentiments were yesterday put forward by the denominational school boards during a stakeholder meeting.

Following the meeting, which lasted just under two hours, acting secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), Vijay Maharaj said they too had voiced concerns relating to the “spacing and social distancing” requirements for students in the physical classroom.

He said any directive to reduce the spatial placements of desks and chairs would have to come from the Ministry of Health (MoH).

“So one has to consider the present space,” Maharaj said.

Pointing out that in a class of 20 students and with the present space requirements, “You can only have about ten students,” he explained that this would now mean the occupation of about two or even three classrooms, “so therefore the questions is whether we can accommodate Forms One to Three at this time.”

Maharaj said as more and more students become vaccinated daily, the classroom numbers are changing constantly hence the demand for space is increasing.

He said questions were also asked as to why students had to wait 14 days after being vaccinated, before they could return to school.

Maharaj said discussions also centered around children who are brought out later than some, and if they would be in tune with the rest of the class who would have been attending classes prior.

“In the denominational schools, our children are online and when they come out, everyone will be up to date. But are we sure that in all public schools, that is taking place?” Maharaj questioned.

Revealing that the Ministry of Education (MoE) would address the social distancing requirement and the 14-day wait after vaccination with the MOH, Maharaj said, “As far as the Minister is concerned, it is the MOH to make that determination.”

Several public schools have issued circulars advising their teaching staff to reconsider conducting face-to-face sessions and also online classes as it is overwhelming and burdensome.

Maharaj said, “The SDMS is continuing with the hybrid system because we want when our children come out, they are up to date so that they can fit into the system as we move forward.”

A circular dated October 12 addressed to parents of students at the Barrackpore West Secondary School advised, “Our school at this time continues to transition to face-to-face classes for all vaccinated students in Forms 4,5 and 6. While we have allowed a limited return of upper school students so far, we are pleased to inform you that All classes for these form levels will be taught face-to-face from Monday October 18, 2021.”

“Unavoidable adjustments to time-tables will be sent to you during the course of this week.”

At the Palo Seco Secondary School, officials acknowledged the time-tabling challenges they had been experiencing since school reopened on October 4.

Advising that Forms One to Three students would continue to enjoy virtual classes, officials said although student turn-out had been low in the upper forms, it was anticipated that this would change in the coming days.

The school then instructed, “There will be timetabled virtual sessions for students of Forms 4 – 5 (unvaccinated students). These students will be facilitated asynchronously as far as possible.”

The school further advised, “The onus is therefore now on parents/guardians to do their part to have their children return to school to complete among other things, their SBA’s.