Teachers worried about Covid-19 spike ahead of school return
Teachers’ unions are set to meet with their members over the next few days, following what sources described as contentious talks with Ministry of Education officials on Tuesday about planned measures for the return to face-to-face classes in two weeks.
The heads of both the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) confirmed to Barbados TODAY that several issues were raised at the five-hour meeting that would require feedback from members.
Barbados TODAY understands that while there was agreement on some matters, the overall tone of the meeting with union leaders and senior education officials was a contentious one, with some persons close to the situation indicating that “February 21 will be the day that students return to the classrooms regardless of what happens”.
Among the issues discussed were the recent spike in COVID-19 infections, the capacity of schools to hold students and maintain social distancing and other protocols within the classroom setting, as well as the repair and maintenance of some school plants.
In attendance were Minister of Education Kay McConney, Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw, Deputy Chief Education Officer Joy Adamson, other Ministry of Education representatives, Chief Medical Officer The Most Honourable Dr Kenneth George, Head of the COVID Monitoring Unit Ronald Chapman, principals of private and public primary schools, officials of all the teachers’ unions, and other trade unions and associations linked to education.
BUT president Rudy Lovell declined to disclose the outcome of the talks before meeting with the union’s members.
However, he expressed disappointment that after the morning consultation with union reps, education officials met with teachers from around 2 p.m.
“It was pointed out to the Minister that calling a meeting with teachers on the same day as the meeting with trade unions prevented us from having a dialogue with the membership after hearing the ministry’s position. Despite the BUT’s call, Minister of Education Kay McConney, though willing to apologise, still moved forward with the said meeting,” Lovell told Barbados TODAY.