Low turnout for face-to-face classes at Clarendon schoolMonday, May 10, 2021
CLARENDON, Jamaica — Only half of the 70 students expected to attend face-to-face classes at the Thompson Town High School in Clarendon showed up this morning, leaving school principal Richard Morgan worried.
“We are concerned that we are losing our students because when we look at our numbers we realise that we have fallen off drastically. We have over 200 students from grades 11-13 on roll and we had scheduled 70 to come in today; but at the start of classes this morning there was only 35 students present,” he told OBSERVER ONLINE.
Morgan listed a litany of possible reasons for the low turnout.
“As a result of the extended period out [of school] it seems they have lost interest. Some have moved out of the area due to poor Internet connectivity and we have not been able to locate them since. Some students have simply stopped attending classes overall. We tried to reach them for online classes, we did some home visits and have learnt that others have started working – a number of them on construction sites and otherwise,” he said.
He explained that students' enrolment for online classes has declined significantly over time with only about 20 per cent of the school's entire student body of 750 participating. According to Morgan, students from the upper school account for the greater portion of that 20 per cent.
“The slower groups of students remain our main challenge because they are not benefitting as much as we would want them to. [This is because] the slower groups require more hands-on and face-to-face learning. So with the online setting they are just not grasping as much, which is why we suspect that we are losing them. The truth is we can do so much online and no more,” he added.
For students from upper grades who are still engaged in learning, educators are trying to get them ready for looming exams.
“Most teachers have completed school based assessments (SBAs) with their students and for other students we are brushing up on the weak areas from aspects of the syllabus to ensure we close whatever gaps that we have identified through the mock exams,” Morgan said.
He added that efforts would be made to accommodate students interested in repeating the school year.
The principal explained that the school's guidance and counselling unit has also been consistently trying to reach out, through home visits, to parents of students they are unable to locate by phone. While these visits have been hampered by the protocols in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, the school administration is pushing ahead with its efforts. Another push is scheduled for this week.
“As the week progresses we are expecting an uptick in the number of students who will return to school and as time goes by leading up to exams. When persons hear that some students are in school they may feel a bit more comfortable to come,” Morgan said.
While exploring ways in which he can re-engage students, the school administrator also has to address teachers' concerns about being back in the classroom. Some have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 and some still have reservations about the AstraZeneca vaccine, he said.
“As a reaction to these concerns the ministry of education has sessions where teachers and other workers are encouraged to attend [and] they are provided with psychosocial support,” he told OBSERVER ONLINE. “We also have our own sessions online where we try to allay the concerns, even though some matters are out of our control. We do what we can, we may not have all the answers but we are committed to helping them work through whatever issues they may have.”
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