Some schools closed early, others had low attendance amid taxi strike

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The Ministry of Education has confirmed that several schools across the island closed early, while some were affected by low attendance as a result of the ongoing strike by taxi and bus operators.

According to the ministry, only Region 5, which comprises the parishes of St Elizabeth and Manchester, reported “no adverse impact of the withdrawal of services by the transport operators on schools”, with all having “normal operations”.

The ministry, in a statement Monday evening, pointed to reports from its regional offices, which indicate that while some students were late and a number of teachers were absent, most classes were conducted in the face-to-face modality.

In Region 1, which covers Kingston and St Andrew, the ministry said 95 percent of the schools operated the face-to-face modality, with the remaining five percent using remote and mixed modalities.

It said two schools — Tivoli High and Kingston High — dismissed classes at midday due to staff shortage.

In Region 2, which comprises St Thomas, Portland, and St Mary, one school reported early closure at 1pm because four teachers were unable to get to the school. 

The region also reported lower-than-normal attendance and late arrivals.

A St Mary High School teacher told talkupditingsdem News that once she got wind that transport operators were withdrawing their services, she made preparations for an online class.

“I take my safety very seriously, so I was not about to attempt to get to school. 

Last week we had a protest in St Mary [over bad roads], and the attendance was significantly affected. We have students coming from St Andrew, Portland, and St Catherine. How will they get to school?” she reasoned.

In St Thomas, Principal of Yallahs High Mark Malabver said most of his staff turned up to school, however, not many students were present. He had planned to use the school bus to transport students, however, that plan was shelved as the bus had to be serviced.

In Region 3, comprising St Ann and Trelawny, Cedric Titus High in Trelawny dismissed classes at 12:30pm because the taxis had stopped moving by then, and Bounty Hall Primary, also in Trelawny, operated remotely. Otherwise, there were no disruptions reported, the ministry said.

In Region 4 — St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland — 22 of the 25 schools were open for face-to-face instruction.

Three high schools — Merlene Ottey, Spot Valley, and Mannings — engaged their students using the virtual modality. 

Two primary schools also engaged students virtually, while the other 138 operated normally.

Region 6, which is the entire parish of St Catherine, reported that all schools operated using the mixed modality approach, except one which had a broken sewerage system. 

Most schools in the urban centers dismissed classes early, while those in the rural interior operated in person with no disruption.

In Clarendon, which is Region 7, all schools in the town areas were affected by low attendance. They employed the mixed modality.

The rural schools were not affected and operated as per usual. The affected schools were dismissed early, the ministry said.

Earlier in the day, Education Minister Fayval Williams urged school administrators not to lock out students or send them home randomly where they turned up for classes late and where there was an inadequate number of teachers.

“The safety of the students and leadership is critical at this time,” the minister said.

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