The return to face-to-face classes has been pushed back further.
Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw told the large crowd at the Barbados Labour Party’s last political meeting at Bay Street on Tuesday night that the new date will now be February 21, one month later than the previously announced January 24.
She added the return would be on a phased basis.
“If we did not have cases rising in the last few days, we would have been able to go back to school on the [24th], but the reality is that we have to play it safe. We are watching what is happening and we are committed to the 21st of February being the date that we start to put things in motion for safe return of our children back in the classroom.”
Bradshaw stressed that the Ministry of Education was ensuring that children returned to safe environments.
“You are well aware that I have been confronted by unions in Barbados. People now vying for political office frustrated the efforts time and time again to get your children into schools. We have made a commitment that we will get your children back to school safely,” she said as she spoke about the effects the different COVID-19 variants had been having on the country.
“We have a responsibility to make sure that we are able to see the spike and we are able to see it come back down before you can return. But I can report to you proudly that despite the variant, we have been preparing; we have been making sure our schools are ready; we have been engaging with our stakeholders.”
Bradshaw pointed out that Barbados was one of the few Caribbean countries to have safety monitors in schools, as she urged parents to use the time to give their children “the necessary guidance and prepare the space for them to be able to learn”.
In terms of the physical plants, she said: “We have decommissioned all the isolation facilities in this country that were schools because we understood that we have to get our children back in schools.”
She also revealed that her ministry had struck a “deal” with the Barbados Light & Power to assist parents who did not have electricity.
Reports indicate that reception, nursery and Class 4 students will be allowed to return in the first instance and after two weeks the COVID Monitoring Unit will determine if the other classes can return. This will also be based on if 70 per cent of the staff attached to the school are vaccinated.