Finally, A Date For Schools To Re-Open

Finally, tonight, there is a timeline for schools to re-open - and for your kids to get back into the classroom. But, it's not until August. The opening date for preschool, primary and secondary schools was announced at a two hour Ministry Of Education press conference this morning in Belize City.

Education Minister Patrick Faber said it starts with teachers going back into the classroom a week before:

Hon. Patrick Faber- Ministry of Education
"August 3rd to the 7th, we will be requiring preschool primary and secondary schools, this is all levels of teachers, to return to the classroom. August 10th is a key date to watch. This is when we believe we are going to be poised to open schools at the preschool, primary school and secondary levels so that all teachers and students can start the new school year, so that there can be administering of the diagnostic assessments and so that we can start implementing learning recovery programs. This early start to the new school year will allow teachers and students to begin to close the learning gaps caused by the extended school closure in the 2019-2020 academic year. It will also provide students and teachers with an important headstart in the event of new school closures later in the school year, should Covid19 persist."

And, starting next week, secondary school students, teachers and counsellors are going in to prepare for CXC examinations.

Similarly, TVET instructors and trainees will be going in on June 22nd to complete practical components of trade programs.

And then, of course on July 13th, secondary school and junior college students will go in to sit CXC examinations.

But, it's not just going back into the classroom without a plan. The Ministry is preparing copious safety guidelines for the full re-opening in August:

Hon. Patrick Faber- Ministry of Education
"We will be publishing guidelines and related training materials for the operation of schools during the Covid19 pandemic. We will be collecting data and analyzing results from school readiness surveys. We will be training education officers, school leaders and teachers. We will be preparing school facilities to address identified infrastructure needs, cleaning and disinfecting facilities, repairing and installing fixtures, and procuring supplies. We will be training school bus operators, school meal providers and our school wardens. We will be making adjustments to schedules and services where necessary and we will be engaging and educating parents and the wider community on issues related to school reopening. We will also be determining the use of masks and face coverings and that will be done based on the national guidelines at the time of school reopening. The Ministry is undertaking several initiatives related to the reopening of schools. These include collaborating with education partners including school management, principals and teacher representatives to finalize a set of criteria that schools must meet and maintain in order to promote a safe and healthy environment. And we will be mobilizing the Ministry of Education personnel to offer training to school leaders and teachers. And we will evaluate school reopening plans including the preparation, arrangements for physical spacing, and adjustments to programs and policies."

Channel 7

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Frequently Asked Questions #5 Plans for the Opening of School

The Ministry of Education today shared new information regarding this school year via Facebook. If you missed it, here are the highlights.

Why will schools open in August this year instead of September?

An early start to the school year will allow teachers and students to begin to close the learning gaps caused by the extended school closure in the 2019-20 academic year. It will also provide students and teachers with an important head start in the event of new school closures later in the school year.

Will students and teachers be expected to wear masks/face coverings at school and on school buses?

The use of masks/face coverings will be determined based on the national guidelines at the time of school reopening.

What preparations are being made for the reopening of school?

Preparations for the reopening of school are ongoing and will continue over the next few weeks with the following activities:

• publishing guidelines and related training materials for the operation of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic;
• collecting data and analyzing results from school readiness surveys;
• training education officers, school leaders and teachers;
• preparing school facilities to address identified infrastructure needs, cleaning and disinfecting facilities, repairing and installing fixtures, and procuring supplies;
• training school bus operators, school meal providers and school wardens;
• making adjustments to schedules and services where necessary; and
• engaging and educating parents and the wider community on issues related to school reopening.

What is the Ministry of Education doing to assist schools with the reopening process?

The Ministry is undertaking several initiatives related to the reopening of schools:

• collaborating with education partners including school managements, principals and teacher representatives to finalize a set of criteria that schools must meet and maintain in order to promote a safe and healthy environment;
• collecting data using surveys to identify areas where schools, parents and teachers may need assistance for school reopening;
• mobilizing Ministry of Education personnel to offer training to school leaders and teachers; and
• evaluating school reopening plans, including preparation of facilities, arrangements for physical spacing, and adjustments to programs and policies.

How can parents and members of the public assist in ensuring that schools can reopen on time and remain safe for students and staff?

There are a number of ways that parents and members of the public can assist the schools in their community:

• donating equipment or labor to install/repair sinks or make-shift hand washing stations;
• donating cleaning and disinfecting supplies and equipment (e.g. soap, detergent/soap powder, bleach, mops, mop buckets, hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, paper towels, cleaning cloths, gloves etc.);
• volunteering to clean and set up classrooms, installing social distance markers and office space dividers, printing and posting signs etc.; and
• monitoring and reporting observed health and sanitation issues to school or Ministry of Education authorities.
Donations can be made directly to the school or to the Ministry of Education on behalf of schools. Please call the MOE Hotline at 615-7402 or 615-7597 for more information on how you can assist.

What is the Ministry of Education doing to assist teachers in transitioning into the new school year?

The Ministry of Education remains committed to supporting teachers during this critical time. Thousands of teachers are currently engaged in the Ministry’s online continuing professional development programs on personal well-being and digital learning. The Ministry plans to build on this effort through a series of relevant professional development workshops. Initial topics include health education, diagnostic assessments, identifying learning gaps and designing teaching plans for learning recovery. Follow-up support and additional training will be provided throughout the school year.

How are schools expected to assist students in catching up on learning lost during the period of school closure?

Schools will need to know where students are in order to help them get to where they need to be. Consequently, the Ministry of Education will be providing tools and training for teachers and school leaders to ensure that learning recovery programs are based on a meaningful assessment of students’ needs. Specific support at the primary and secondary levels of education are described below:

Primary Level-The Ministry of Education is designing a system of diagnostic tests for primary schools called the Belize Diagnostic Assessment Test (BDAT). Schools will administer these tests to students on their return to school in order to determine what students know and are able to do compared to what they were expected to know and be able to do for their class level. Teachers will use the results of the BDAT to design learning activities that are catered to the needs of each student. Results of the BDAT will NOT be factored into students’ term grades.
Secondary Level-Since the Primary School Exam (PSE) was not administered to Standard VI students this year, secondary schools are asked to administer the PSE to all entering first form students. The results should be used to identify weaknesses that a student may have so that necessary remedial support can be provided. It is expected that teachers will administer similar assessments at each level of secondary education to determine students’ learning needs and to develop effective learning recovery programs.

What is being done to prepare for continued learning in the event that future school closures are necessary?

All schools will be required to develop a Learning Continuity Plan that can be operationalized in the event of future school closures. Additionally, the Ministry of Education is actively exploring digital learning platforms and devices that can be integrated into the current teaching and learning practices of schools. Strategies to help support parents with home-based learning such as encouraging the utilization of learning benchmarks in literacy and mathematics are also being considered. All of these efforts will ensure that students, teachers and parents have the capacity and resources necessary to switch more easily to quality distance and home-based learning in the future.

As the 2019-20 school year closes, what type of support is the Ministry of Education offering to students and families?

The 2019-20 school year officially comes to a close at the end of June. Schools are expected to continue supporting and engaging students up until that time. The Ministry of Education is doing its part to help bring a successful close to the school year with the following activities and programs:

Ongoing Efforts: New editions of print and digital materials will be provided up until mid-June. Radio and video lessons will continue to be aired on local radio and TV stations up until the last Friday in June. These home-based learning materials are also accessible from the Ministry’s website at https://resource.moe.gov.bz/.
New Program: The Ministry of Education, with support from UNICEF, has launched a new TV/ Radio program called "In it Together". This family show is designed to expose children to cooking, gardening and the arts in a fun way and to provide psychosocial support for families. “In it Together” is aired every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11:00 am on Channel 7 and on Love Radio. The show will run up until the end of July.

What are the updates on the administration of CXC Examinations?

The administration of CXC Examinations is now set to start on July 13, 2020 and to continue through to July 31, 2020 in the case of CAPE and through to 1August 4, 2020 in the case of CSEC Exams. The exams are being administered in a modified format, which in most cases includes a multiple choice paper and a school-based assessment (SBA). The Examinations Unit is currently training invigilators and mobilizing moderators for external assessment of SBAs. The administration of the examinations will be done in accordance with provisions set forth by CXC and local health authorities. Psychosocial support sessions for students sitting exams are also being organized.

What are the plans for the National Graduation Ceremony?

The Ministry of Education is producing the first ever virtual National Graduation Ceremony in celebration of all secondary school graduates of 2020. The event is being held under the theme “The Climb” and is scheduled to start at 2:00 pm on June 21, 2020. It will be broadcasted on Channel 7, Love FM, TNC The National Channel, Krem TV and Wave TV, as well as, via the Government of Belize Press Office and Ministry of Education Facebook pages. The two-hour program will include presentations by national leaders (including the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture), community activists and popular personalities. The top graduates from each school will be featured and entertainment will be provided by secondary school students and other local artists. The Ministry of Education invites the general public to tune in to the program and to join the nation in recognizing the accomplishments of our 2020 graduates.