Schools in the Virgin Islands reopened today, January 4 using the blended learning approach, but the issue of adequate internet access for students continues to be a major struggle.
“The struggle for adequate internet coverage in schools continues, but I am pleased to say that some progress was made over the last term in the build out of the internet infrastructure that should address the coverage on campus,” Hon. Natalio Wheatley, Education Minister stated.
In a statement in the House of Assembly last week, he said during the course of this term, the mounting of promethean boards in schools will continue. He said this will help with the delivery of the lessons, accommodating students in class as well as those online.
The Minister pointed out that partnering with the Department of Information Technology (DoIt), plans are on stream to further equip schools to assist internet coverage on campus.
Further, Hon. Wheatley said they have had significant improvement in the number of students with devices for use.
“We were able to address the shortage of digital textbooks (VIDES) for grades seven to nine students by allowing students to access the application via their personal laptops. Where possible, we saw a number of parents purchasing or loaning devices for the students to use,” he stated.
The Minister added, “We received the laptops that were purchased through the Government’s stimulus package and these were made available for the students to use through the loan programme.”
He noted that also, over the last term, students were gifted with devices by private businesses and non-profit organisations.
In relation to school reopening, the education minister said that schools will open and will continue, for the most part, utilizing the hybrid/blended learning approach.
He explained that individual schools have made some slight adjustments to scheduling of contact hours to better accommodate students. To this end, parents should expect communication on the adjustments from the school principals.
“For the majority, there have been no adjustments. Let me mention the Elmore Stoutt Junior High School. Classes will be held online for the first week of 4th to 8th January. By the second week, students will be given a schedule for on campus contact sessions,” he said.
In relation to the the junior school population, he said this is currently 779 students, so because of the numbers and the on campus requirements for social distancing, students will still have the majority of classes online.
Minister Wheatley said contact hours with students on campus will be used to cover content in Math, English and technical subjects. The schedule for the Elmore Stoutt High School senior students remains as it was for the Advent term.