The Ministry of Education is hoping to reopen all 600-plus schools for hybrid learning by August 2022.

This is a journey that started early this year, with the reopening of some schools back in April, and then again in October. And while schools were understandably hesitant at first, 85 of them are now engaged in hybrid learning.

But there's still hundreds of schools left, so how is the ministry going to accomplish this? Well, they're starting by requiring all schools to apply for the green lighting process by next month, regardless of if the school is actually ready to reopen. According to Minister Francis Fonseca, this will allow the ministry to know where each school stands and to be able to work with them before the new school year in August. He told us more today via Zoom.

Hon. Francis Fonseca - Minister of Education
"As of November 25th, the last report I received, we have I think 182 have applied for reopening, for a green light, we've approved 170 of those schools and 85 of them have actually opened for some form of hybrid learning meaning that they also have remote learning taking place but on certain days of the week their students are reporting to campus. What I discussed on Cabinet on Tuesday was really to have all schools apply, we still have not, like I said, we've only received 182 applications for reopening for hybrid learning, so we are requiring that come January that all schools apply so we can know really what are the challenges you are facing that are keeping you from returning to classrooms and we can address them with those schools. We want schools to apply for the green light status, we want them to demonstrate that they have complied with our guidelines for school operations, of course they must continue to reinforce the COVID protocols that are in place and they have a reporting form, we have a reporting for, that allow them to report immediately, any incidences, any cases of COVID that arrives, whether it's with staff, with teachers, with students and that information goes directly to both the ministry of education and the ministry of health so that we can respond very quickly. All the evidence shows that transmission at school is very very low in terms of the cases that we've seen so far over the past few months, for those schools that have returned to face to face instruction, it's below 2% of students who have gotten any cases of COVID and in most cases when the ministry of health does their survey of what has caused that, it is linked to something outside the school environment, not related to the school environment. Schools are very safe but obviously we have to continue to educate the public bout that issue, educate parents about that issue, and we have to put in place everything to ensure whatever challenges school have, whatever weaknesses exist that is preventing them from face to face that we address those challenges."

Minister Concedes Teachers Stressed Out

And with almost two years of online classes, it's not surprising to see frustrated teachers and fatigued students. But the outburst from the teacher at San Pedro High School has left many wondering, who's at fault?

Some say the teacher should not have let her emotions get the better of her, while others have said they have faced much worse in their days at school.

And while that last sentiment is frightening, the Minister of Education says that no form of abuse should be tolerated at schools. He told us that he was disappointed when he saw the video, but that it says a lot about the mental state of those in the education sector and the dire need for mental health professionals.

Hon. Francis Fonseca - Minister of Education
"I think the fundamental message we want to send is listen, we understand the stress that teachers are faced with but there can be no excuse for any form of verbal abuse, any physical abuse, that was not the case here, physical abuse, obviously because it's online, but there can be no excuses for verbal abuse. Our teachers are trained, they are to be held at a higher standard so teachers can never, as difficult as it is, can never allow that frustration to boil over into the classroom setting, they have to demonstrate to their students how important it is despite the challenges of life that we remain focused, that we remain compassionate, and that we are at all times professional in the execution of our duties so it was a very difficult video to watch and we should never use those words when we're referring to our students and children in general whether we are parents, whether we're teachers or individuals, we should never refer to young people in that way so I was disappointed to see that but it's not about judging or condemning the teacher, it's about finding a way to support her and to make sure we take a lesson from this example. The whole issue of mental support for our teachers and students, counselors in our education system, that's a big priority for me, I think it's critically important, it's something that' lacking, our education system, we need a lot more trained, certified counselors, to support not only our students but also our teachers so we're absolutely committed to that and that was one of the issues I discussed as well last Friday with the president of the BNTU, how we can work together to address that issue."

Unvaxxed Teachers Will Be Allowed In Schools But With a COVID Test

And parents, teachers, and students are hoping things will be a little easier when schools are officially opened for hybrid learning. But another concern for the ministry â�" and the schools â�" are teachers who either cannot or will not get vaccinated. It's only about 8% of teachers, but for parents, it's a bit scary to send their child away from the safety of their home. But the minister assured them today that those unvaxxed teachers will still need to present a negative COVID test every two weeks to be allowed inside the classroom.

Hon. Francis Fonseca - Minister of Education
"The policy remains in place as I discussed with the union as well, as you said, 92% of our teachers are vaccinates so that's the good news, that's tremendous, that 8%, we seemed to have hit a wall with that 8% for various reasons, some of them have legitimate reasons, others have simply refused to take the vaccine but the policy remains the same that they will have to produce a negative test every two weeks to continue teaching and going back into the classroom but we encourage them to get vaccinated as we have been saying from day one, getting vaccinated is not just about yourself, it's about protecting your fellow teachers, protecting your students, protecting the staff at your school, the administration, and also of course protecting your family at home, the vaccine won't prevent you from getting COVID but it certainly will help you to fight COVID and to deal with the effects of COVID so along with the union we are very happy for the support of the teachers union on this important issue, along with them we have been sending a very strong message to our teachers of how important it is to get vaccinated."

Channel 7