Bermuda Post

Friday, Oct 30, 2020

Update on the Reopening of Bermuda Public Schools

Update on the Reopening of Bermuda Public Schools

There are now 26 days leading up to the start of the 2020/21 school year, and we look forward to having our students and staff return to our schools.

All school staff will return on September 1st, and our students will return on September 9th. The only students and staff who will not return to school buildings are those staff and students who meet the Department of Health's criteria for the extremely clinically vulnerable as verified by a doctor or physician.

All students under the age of 16 years old will be on-site in school buildings every day during the school week. This includes students from the Preschool level up to S2 at the Senior Level. For clarity, there will be no rotating in and out of school buildings for students from preschool to S2. Separate plans for the S3 and S4 students who will be attending classes at their respective senior schools, Bermuda College or who are on work-study are awaiting approval.

The 2020/2021 school year will bring a new and different experience for our staff and our students with the added safety measures required for schools and with some revisions to how teaching, learning and services will take place. I can reassure Bermuda that as we prepare for the reopening of schools, Technical Officers in the Department of Education, school principals, staff and administrators have been, and continue to work steadily to move plans forward for the reopening of our public schools on September 1st.

It is critically important that the school reopening planning involve our Union partners. Now that we have the entry/exit guidelines in the final stages, the Commissioner and the BUT will be meeting at least once per week as we move towards school opening. Additionally, input will be sought from our other Union partners, the BPSU and the BIU as we continue to collaborate with them.

Hybrid Learning Model

Bermuda we will follow a Hybrid Learning Model for our students. That model includes the following scenarios:

- Students who are in school buildings will be taught by their teachers who are also in the school building;
- Students who are in the school building may be taught remotely by their teacher if the teacher is extremely clinically vulnerable. In this instance, a teacher will be on-site in the building to support students.
- Students who are extremely clinically vulnerable and who must be shielded will access learning remotely the same time as their class, under the supervision of a parent or guardian and during set periods of time.

Safety and Health Protocols and Measures

During the zoom town hall sessions held by the Department recently, parents wanted information about class sizes. The Department of Health has set guidelines for classroom capacity of up to a maximum of 18 students, where possible, with a minimum of 3-feet social distancing in classrooms. The class size for preschools has been set at a maximum of 10 students. These guidelines for class sizes are to be supported with the following safety measures:

- Staff and students must remain at home if they are not well;

- Daily screening procedures at each school which consists of taking the temperatures of staff and students and responding to COVID-19 related questions;

- Ensuring proper room ventilation, so the air is circulating

- Ongoing student handwashing

- Respiratory etiquette for staff and students

- Mask wearing for:

(a) all students during entry and exit procedures;
(b) middle and senior students throughout the day;
(c) adults throughout the day;
(d) any movement around the school; and
(e) environmental sanitation or cleaning

Information Shared at Parent Meetings

The Commissioner of Education has been hosting a series of meetings to inform parents of plans for the new school year and the reopening of school buildings.

Ten zoom town hall meetings have been held to date with two sessions held for each school level – preschool, primary, middle, senior and Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy. The meetings were streamed live on Facebook, and the recordings are available to be watched in the respective Facebook Pages. Officers in the Department of Education along with Health Department officials emphasized three priorities during these meetings:

- Staff and Student Safety and Health;
- Staff and Student Wellness; and,
- Teaching, learning and student services.

These sessions focused mainly on the safety and health protocols for schools. The Department of Health officers who were present explained safety measures to mitigate and eliminate risks from COVID-19. The Department of Education officers also explained the specifics of the entry to exit safety and health protocols, the concept of student "bubbles" and class sizes.

Additionally, they discussed the criteria for the extremely clinically vulnerable and what parents could do to prepare students who have asthma for the return to school. Department of Education officers shared information about the Hybrid Learning Model and the work that is being carried out by Technical Officers in preparation for the reopening of our schools.

Some parents have indicated that they would like to keep their children at home for remote learning regardless of their health condition. I must emphasize that this is not the purpose of the Hybrid Learning Model. This model was developed only to accommodate the students who are extremely clinically vulnerable and who must be shielded and who must remain at home. Our student Health records indicate that this would be a very small percentage of our student population and the success of the model is dependent on having only a small percentage of our students access learning remotely.

A teacher teaching remotely will teach the students in the classroom and the students who are extremely clinically vulnerable at the same time. A teacher will not be able to manage large numbers of students remotely in this scenario. That would place an additional burden on our teachers. We must keep the number of students learning remotely to only the extremely clinically vulnerable students to protect the health and well-being of our teachers and to ensure effective learning occurs.

PowerSchool and Parent Connect

The PowerSchool System is a critical part of the Department of Education's communication infrastructure. We want parents to know that Power School is your source of accurate contact and other parent details for administrative purposes, and for keeping track of your children's progress at school. Therefore, parents are reminded that they must have a PowerSchool parent account in order to have access to the PowerSchool parent portal.

An examination of our data for parent account shows that too many parents do not have a Power School account or they have not accessed their account.

If parents do not know how to access the Power School parent portal or if they are unsure whether they have an account, they can reset the password using the following steps.

1. Go to classroom.powerschool.com
2. Choose the Forgot Password link.
3. Enter PowerSchool ID (email address) and press "Send Request"

All new parents in the system will be contacted and provided with instructions on how a PowerSchool parent portal can be set up. If you have questions regarding your account or any difficulties, please email: powerschool@moed.bm.

Information on account set-up is located on the Facebook Page @BermudaPublicSchools and on the www.moed.bm website.

Transportation/Bus Schedule and Safety

Officers in the Department of Education and the Department of Transportation are working on a schedule and procedures for student bus transportation. Parents will be advised as soon as the plan has been finalized, which we expect to be completed soon.

School Staff and Student Overseas Travel

The Government's Travel Policy has been shared and provides procedures for three categories of workers. All non-essential travel has been discouraged. Persons but persons in education fall within the Medium Risk Category. We ask our educators and parents to follow these procedures accordingly.

Students who travel with their parents will quarantine at home with their parents until the parent undergoes three negative test results or with no testing before arrival on the island, the student and parent will quarantine for a period of 14 days.

Department of Education Meetings with School Staff

Separate meetings for school staff are currently being arranged for the week of August 17th, 2020. School staff have been sent information on the dates for each school level meeting. Although the meetings are not mandatory, I encourage staff to participate so that questions that they have about school reopening can be answered.

School Uniforms

Individual schools are responsible for deciding on their school uniform. As a result, the Commissioner has reached out to all school leaders and asked that they work with their respective PTAs before the opening of school, to find ways to help parents in need to secure new uniforms for our students. Our objective is that every student to have a set of uniforms for the school year. We do know, however, that some of our school leaders have already implemented strategies to help parents.

Additionally, there have been requests from parents to consider simplifying uniforms at primary, middle and senior levels. Given this, we have also asked our school principals to engage PTA presidents and parents in conversations at the start of the school year about the school uniform and how it might be simplified moving forward.

Earlier today, during a meeting with the Chairman of the Board and the Principal of CedarBridge Academy, we discussed the topic of Uniforms. I am pleased to report that they have already begun to mobilize efforts regarding a revised uniform policy for the upcoming school year. I am confident; all other school leaders will look at similar measures to assist our parents as it relates to school uniforms.

There is no doubt that as we adjust to our "new normal", there will be minor teething issues that will be experienced. I want our parents, teachers, principals, education staff and our students to know that there has been a tremendous amount of planning that has gone into ensuring our schools are safe to open. I want to thank all of those who have spent countless days over the last 3+ months pouring over the data to develop our guidelines to ensure safety when schools reopen.

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