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The ‘new normal’ in schools: what will it look like?

Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2020. 7:56 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: It is one thing to re-open schools in the midst of a pandemic. It’s quite another to actually get children back to schools, despite only a handful of children being affected by COVID-19 in Belize since the first case was recorded in March.

As Chief Education Officer Dr Carol Babb concedes, “We know that a lot of parents are fearful, and it’s natural. This coronavirus is novel, it’s new, and not even the greatest and most learned scientists know enough about it.”

So in the coming weeks, the Ministry is rolling up its sleeves to provide psycho-social support to parents, teachers and students through in-house infomercials, as well as the continuing radio program ‘In It Together’ and online.

As for the physical conditions, the shift system will be primarily implemented at the larger schools that do not have physical space to bring all students together all day. Said Dr Babb, “Not all schools will have to go on the shift system; it depends on your enrolment. But when you think of big schools in Belize City, like Holy Redeemer, they will have to go on a shift system unless the general manager can find extra classroom spaces.”

She added that in some cases it’s not possible to provide those extra spaces, but ideally, with the introduction of the new armchairs, classes would be spread out and so be able to accommodate all children at all times.

And playtime is still possible as well: “I think we can still do recess. Remember most of the classrooms will not be crowded, and teachers would maybe have to stagger the time, have children go out at different times and ensure that when they are on the playground they are physically distancing themselves. It’s a new norm, and so teachers will have to model the kind of behaviour. And yes, there will be errors made, but we have to be constant and ensure that we are modelling for our students,” Dr Babb concluded.

By convention, schools typically open between 8 and 8:30 a.m. in the morning and close around 3 p.m. for primary and secondary level (slightly earlier in pre-school and lower grades), while at tertiary level classes can go into the late night.


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