PHILIPSBURG — Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Silveria Jacobs met with school managers of the public schools this past Friday to clarify the misunderstanding about extra school hours for public school teachers in St. Maarten.
Based on questions posed by The Daily Herald last week, Jacobs issued a press release addressing concerns of the school managers and their management, teachers and staff members.
Jacobs expressed her sincerest apologies for the misunderstanding to the school managers, teachers, and staff due to lack of proper communication for several reasons.
Public Education Division Head Glenderlin Davis-Holiday met and informed school managers of the new start time on September 30. It was decided that groups 7 and 8 students would attend the first three days of school from 8:00am to 12:00pm and from Thursday, October 5, onward when all groups would attend, school hours would be from 8:00am to 2:00pm.
Jacobs said she had explained why she saw it necessary to start school at 8:00am, seeing that many homes were still without water and/or electricity and to prevent children being on the streets too early, especially during this season. She also meant to ensure the safety of younger students utilising school buses who were dropped at school from 6:30am.
It was also explained to school managers that there was no increase in the contact hours: teachers are to be in school from 7:30am until 2:45pm order to fulfil a 40-hour- 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 Department of Education regulations.
An extra 40 minutes has been set aside to accommodate teachers and students to receive a warm meal for lunch during this time, to meet the need that had been perceived after the passing of Hurricane Irma. The lunches will be provided by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, but the Red Cross NL has pledged to prepare 4,000 meals for teachers and pupils of the elementary schools as of October 16. Lunch in elementary public schools will be provided from 1:20 to 2:00pm.
St. Maarten Vocational Training School will be the only public school returning to regular hours of 7:30am to 2:45pm, 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. Children who use school buses will have to wait until 2:00pm to leave the school premises.
The school bus operators were made aware of the new scheduling via a letter on September 30 and this information was also shared during a press conference on October 1. Miscommunication seems to also have occurred in this area, but school bus operators are currently fully aware of the change in pick-up and drop-off times.
Jacobs was aware of the 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. She will be scheduling a meeting as soon as possible to clarify her position to the unions detailing the how and why of the decision that may be the cause of some discontent among teaching staff as well as management.
The Minister thanked all teachers for their continued dedication to education and the pupils/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.