7,184 students projected to start school in St. Martin on Sept. 13 | THE DAILY HERALD

Cité Scolaire Robert Weinum in La Savane. Schools will be starting back on September 13. (Robert Luckock photo)


MARIGOT–According to enrolment projection figures issued by National Education, 7,999 students of the public schools of St. Martin and St. Barths are expected to return to school for the 2021-2022 year on September 13, compared to 7,942 at the start of the school year in 2020, and increase of 0.7 per cent.

  Some 1,257 students will be starting school in St. Barths, including from its two private schools, and 7,184 students in St. Martin for a total of 8,441 students. The figures for St. Martin do not include private schools.

  The expected 7,184 students in public schools starting the 2021 school year in St. Martin is a very slight decrease of 0.1 per cent. Forecasts predict a slight increase of 0.2 per cent for the first degree. The kindergarten level will lose 1.3 per cent of its pupils, while the elementary level will gain one per cent.

  In the second degree, the expected number of students in middle school will be 1,861, compared to 1,926 in the 2020 school year, a decrease of 3.4 per cent.

  For St. Martin and St. Barths combined, 4,028 students in the first degree are expected to start the school year compared to 3,994 at the start of the 2020 school year, an increase of 0.9 per cent.

  While there is a drop in enrolment (-1.9 per cent) at the kindergarten level (26 fewer children), this is offset by an increase of 2.3 per cent at the elementary level (plus 60 pupils).

  The expected number of students in the second degree (middle and high schools) of the Northern Islands is 3,971, an increase of 0.6 compared to the number of students at the start of the 2020 school year.

  At the middle school (college) level, the expected number of students is 2,249, a decrease of 1.3 per cent compared to the start of the 2020 school year, while at the high school level, a 3.2 per cent increase is expected, i.e. 53 additional students. This expected increase should concern more the Lycée technological high schools (plus 5.5 per cent) than vocational high schools (plus 0.4 per cent).

  The Ministry of Education announced that the start of school in the French Antilles would be postponed until September 13 due to soaring cases of COVID-19 in Martinique and Guadeloupe. The latter’s hospital in particular is an evacuation route for St. Martin patients. Proliferation of the more transmissible Delta variant, the low vaccination rate, and not wanting to put more pressure on the hospitals contributed to the Ministry’s decision.

  “The threat level in St. Martin and St. Barths is not as high as in Guadeloupe and Martinique, but nevertheless we are part of the Academie de Guadeloupe, and the postponement is what the unions asked for,” National Union for Secondary Education (SNES) representative in St. Martin Laurent Bayly told The Daily Herald. “It’s actually a good thing, health-wise.”

  Bayly said teachers will be teaching in half groups or half classes, in other words half the class at school and the other distance learning from home, during the first two weeks after the start of school on September 13, until October 1.

  “This is also what the unions were asking for,” he said. “We have to adapt to the situation, but we have had experience of lockdowns and distance learning last year. Even if we don’t have the full means of co-working networks, issues with computers and networks especially at the Lycée, we can manage. It’s not an ideal situation not to have all students in class at the same time following the same course, but we have to adapt. In fact, we don’t have a choice in this situation.”

  He said the situation of having sufficient teachers and classrooms is expected to be better for this new school year. However, the Lycée in La Savane has had an issue with its computers and servers since April and new servers are needed.

  “The main issue is that not all students have computers and a good Internet connection. The Collectivité during the last lockdown did provide laptops to some disadvantaged students, but lately we have not heard from the Collectivité on this issue, I think because of the strike. We do need to know what is going to be done about this in the coming months. It’s up to the Collectivité to provide these materials.”

  All teachers will be reporting for work on Monday, September 6, to prepare for the arrival of students on September 13.

  The postponement has produced some mixed feelings among teachers, particularly over the impact the delay will have on student learning.

   “Delaying school is never a good option for students and families,” one teacher told this newspaper. “Secondary school students have stopped classes since mid-June. For some, it means no access to reading, searching, learning for three months.

  “Delaying the start means a tougher start. Students often miss their friends. Are classes going to start on the 13th or it is going to be a week of introduction days, which would delay classes even more? So, there is no positive impact to expect school-wise in my opinion.

  “The Minister of Education said it is up to the school principals to organise schooling. So, what should be done? Re-organise timetables to avoid mixing of students, lessen the number of students per classroom, improve disinfection capacity, mandate students to wear masks at all times, increase vaccination levels among adults and at risk personnel, mandate canteen staff to wear masks and no mixing of students?

  “How will principals and school director do this, as the number of classrooms is insufficient (primary schools, Cité Scolaire) and some schools are at over capacity (Cité Scolaire)? I am curious to see what can be done to effectively put in place local measures that conform with the general guidelines defined by the French Ministry of Education.”

  Vice-Recteur for Education in St. Martin and St. Barths Michel Sanz and Recteur of the Guadeloupe Academie Christine Gangloff-Ziegler will be holding a press conference this week to give clarity on the conditions for students returning to school.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/7-184-students-projected-to-start-school-in-st-martin-on-sept-13