Ministry of Education reverses decision and postpones face-to-face instruction for secondary schools for another two weeks

Parents and students say they are confused and tired by the indecisiveness of the Education Ministry, after it announced that online classes would continue for another two weeks.

Only last Thursday, September 30, the Ministry advised the public that face-to-face instruction would recommence today, October 4, for secondary-level students and teachers who are vaccinated.

However, the Ministry has since reversed that decision, and all public schools will continue to engage students remotely.  It will make exceptions for vaccinated students who critically require face-to-face instruction, and they may attend in-person classes at the discretion of school principals.

Teachers, meanwhile, are required to work from their school compounds and teach via the remote platform.  Again, under exceptional circumstances, they may work from home with permission of the Ministry of Education on the recommendation of their principal.

The new date for public schools to offer face-to-face instruction at Tier 2 (i.e., reduced numbers), and for vaccinated students only, is October 18, the Ministry says.

For the next two weeks, post-secondary institutions – including the Antigua and Barbuda Institute of Continuing Education (ABICE); the Antigua and Barbuda International Institute of Technology (ABIIT); and the Antigua State College – will engage in face-to-face instruction, for vaccinated students only, at the direction of the heads of these institutions.

All teaching and support staff must be fully vaccinated while unvaccinated students will be engaged remotely, the Ministry advises.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Education has drafted guidelines for the operation of all educational institutions.  

From today, October 4, any private secondary wishing to engage in face-to-face instruction must first apply, in writing, to the Director of Education.   This must be supported by evidence that the conditions specified by Education administrators have been met.

Permission will be granted based on the Ministry’s Tier 2 education plan, which consists of some in-person instruction and remote learning.  Again, this will be for vaccinated students only.

The Ministry, meanwhile, has mandated schools to ensure that “provisions are in place for all unvaccinated students to continue to receive remote instruction similar to that being offered face-to-face.”

Early-childhood institutions (i.e., daycare and preschools) will remain open for in-person instruction and care once all staff members are fully vaccinated, according to the Ministry.

Last Wednesday, September 29, after consulting with the Ministries of Education and Health, the Cabinet decided that all primary schools would continue with remote instruction for another two weeks in the first instance.  

Officials said the COVID situation, at present, does not allow for any in-person instruction of unvaccinated primary students.  Accordingly, the permission for in-class instruction that was previously granted to a few private primaries was revoked.