PHILIPSBURG — On Friday, October 6th, the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, held a meeting with the school managers of the public schools. The meeting was held to give clarity to the concerns of the school managers and their management, teachers and staff members. Minister Jacobs expressed her sincerest apologies for the misunderstanding to the school managers, teachers, and staff due to lack of proper communication for several reasons.
On September 30th, the Head of Division Public Education met and informed school managers of the new start time. It was decided that the group 7 & 8 students would attend the first three days of school from 8:00am to 12:00pm and from Thursday, October 5th onward when all groups would attend, school would commence from 8:00am until 2:00pm. The Minister explained why she saw it necessary to start school at 8:00 am, seeing that many homes were still without water and/or electricity and to avoid children being on the road too early especially during this season and to ensure the safety of the younger students utilizing the buses and who were dropped to school from 6:30am.
School managers were also explained that there was no increase in the contact hours, teachers are to be in school from 7:30am until 2:45pm in order to fulfill a 40 per week work schedule, to attend meetings and workshops within that time as needed.
The teaching schedules have not been increased nor extended, as it all falls within the regulations from the Department of Education. An extra 40 minutes has been set aside to accommodate teachers and students to receive a warm meal for lunch during this time in order to meet the need that had been perceived after the passing of Irma. The lunches will be provided by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, however, as of October 16th, the Red Cross NL has pledged to prepare 4000 meals for teachers and students of the elementary schools. Lunch in elementary Public Schools will be provided from 1:20pm until 2:00pm. The St. Maarten Vocational Training School will be the only public school returning to regular hours of 7:30 until 2:45, due to the contact hours already ending at 2:45pm
Parents may opt not to have their children stay in school, and pick them up at 1:20pm. Students who utilize the busses will have to wait until 2:00pm to leave the school premises.
On September 30th the school bus operators were made aware of the new scheduling via a letter and this information was also shared during the press conference on October 1st.
Miscommunication seems to also have occurred in this area, however, school bus operators are currently fully aware of the change in pick up and drop off times.
Note has also been taken of Windward Island Teacher’s Union (WITU) visits to several schools as well as a request for a meeting on short notice which could not be held. However, a meeting will be scheduled as soon as possible to clarify to the unions how and why decisions were made which may have caused some discontent among teaching staff as well as management.
Minister Jacobs thanks all teachers for their continued dedication to education and the students they serve and continues to pledge to assist in any way possible to make this difficult period as pleasant as possible under the circumstances.