Principal of the institution, Lavern Stewart, said since the March 13 closure of schools to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID 19) on the island, 1231 of the 1807 enrolled students have been consistently connecting with teachers for virtual lessons.
“We have a centralized platform that is used by our teachers for our students and through that format, we have been able to upload assignments, mark assignments, give meaningful feedback to our students and teachers are able to engage our students in conversation,” she told JIS News.
“We really see it as a good tool because it allows the Principal, Vice Principals and other managers to monitor what is happening, so we are really able to have a better grasp in terms of supervision of what is happening with both teachers and students,” the Principal added.
Ms. Stewart said the centralized virtual lessons are further augmented by other platforms such as WhatsApp, Schoology and Zoom in order to offer additional support to students.
She informed that classes are held from 8:00 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. Monday to Friday, and pupils who are unable to connect during those hours, can access the learning content in their own time, based on the design of the platform.
“Based on some challenges that some students have been having, they may not come into classes at that particular time because some students have to wait until their parents come home in the evening for them to be able to access the work,” she said.
“Therefore based on that centralized platform, students can go in at any time, day or night and access their work and return the work to their teachers and within reasonable time, the teacher may be able to engage them in a conversation,” Ms. Stewart added.
In the meantime, the Principal told JIS News that steps have been taken to hand deliver printed learning materials to students, who have not been able to participate in the online learning, due to a lack of internet access or a technological device.
Ms. Stewart said the administration has been actively tracking those students and has now set up strategic locations for them to pick up and drop off learning materials.
She informed that students are able to pick up printed materials at the Hopewell Library in Hanover, the Cambridge, Anchovy and Barnett Street police stations in St. James and at the Bethel Town Library in Westmoreland.
“We are going into a number of communities in St James and Westmoreland. We are going to be leaving printed materials at designated points for students to pick up this week and next week we are going to collect and give them another batch. We are trying not to leave any student out at all,” she emphasized.
“The challenges that these students are facing is either that they have absolutely no device, two, there is no internet service in the area that they live and three, they are not able to keep up with the purchase of data because they don’t have WIFI at home, so they are not always with data on their phones,” Ms. Stewart noted.
Additionally, the Principal informed that the institution is seeking to procure smart phones for some 148 disadvantaged students, so that they too can have access to the online learning.
“It is out of this concern that I wrote to Flow to ask if they would be kind enough to either give us hand-sets at a discounted cost, so we could get something in the hands of these students for them to access these online lessons. We are still waiting for a response but the school will try to secure phones for those 148 students. [Therefore] we are petitioning some kind hearted persons, if they are able to assist these students to donate a phone,” she outlined.
President of the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) at the Anchovy High, Sygani Ricketts has praised the institution for its use of technology to facilitate the teaching of students amid the closure of the schools due to COVID-19.
“It’s a good thing based on the feedback we have been getting from parents. The initiative that was taken, they like it and they are on board with it for those who we have contacted,” she told JIS News.
Ms. Ricketts explained that while there has been a few hiccups to the remote learning process, the administration with the support of the PTA, has been able to navigate some of those challenges.
“The initiative is good one. I reached out to the principal letting her know that some students don’t have internet access where they’re at [and] they don’t have a computer. Their parents have said they can’t afford to buy another phone because they are not working, hence we [the PTA and the school administration] came up with the idea to do the paperwork, where students can collect information from various libraries and police stations,” she explained.
Ms. Ricketts said the PTA executive continues to support the academic staff in their pursuit to ensure that no student is left behind.
Meanwhile, Head Girl at Anchovy High, Ramona Steadman is among the students facing challenges with distance learning.
She will be sitting nine Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) Examination this year.
Ramona told JIS News that she relies on data plans to access learning materials online, but with the magnitude of information, that avenue has been inadequate.
Against that background, she is grateful for the alternative method, which has been put in place by the school’s administration to accommodate students without Internet access.
“Where I live, there is good signal but at times signing into the different sites to access work, I face difficulties. Speaking to the principal, she started distributing work for students in my community and other communities, leaving them at Anchovy police station, Sandy Bay Library and elsewhere,” Ramona stated.
“It is very beneficial leaving materials [at those locations] because from where I live to the [Anchovy] police station, it is just a simple drive,” she added.
The Head Girl further added that “persons not being able to access internet all the time… will now still be able to do their work because the material is being provided.”
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