Schools urged to stay online as more rain expected
School administrators have been cautioned by the Ministry of Education to liaise with their board of governors on whether to reopen doors for face-to-face classes today after rains from Hurricane Ian scoured Jamaica’s southern, eastern and western regions on Monday.
Director of Corporate Communication Colin Steer issued a late-evening statement advising schools to use remote-learning options because showers and thunderstorms were expected to continue into Tuesday afternoon. Schools should only have face-to-face classes where conditions are safe, Steer said.
Principals cancelled in-person sessions or sent home students at noon Monday as torrential rain caused flooding in St Mary, St Catherine, Clarendon, and Portland, the Ministry of Education reported.
Steer told The Gleaner that some students were given reading assignments, while online learning was activated in many institutions.
The ministry spokesman could not give precise data on the total number of schools that remained closed.
Barrington Richardson, regional director of Region Seven, which covers schools in Clarendon, said that all 112 public schools were shuttered because of the weather conditions.
Field officers reported that school administrators were making use of online modalities to conduct classes while others opted to leverage the messaging platform WhatsApp to communicate with students and share classwork and special readings.
“Most of our roads now are flooded, and so in wisdom, the school boards would have advised the parents that they would not open for face-to-face, but the students are engaged online,” he said.
Richardson said that administrators would continue to monitor throughout Monday night into Tuesday morning to determine whether in-person classes would resume.
He said it was difficult to assess the scale of the hurricane’s impact because the situation was fluid, but noted that up to Monday afternoon, there were no reports of schools being flooded or sustaining infrastructural damage.
“Thank God for that,” he said with relief.
But Richardson said he is deeply concerned about Portland Cottage district in the parish and is awaiting reports on the state of the schools in the southeastern Clarendon community.
“That area is our major concern. We have a few small schools there in that area, and that is a flood-prone area,” he said, referencing Portland Cottage Primary and Alley Primary.