Monday 28 September, 2020

Callaloo Mews Basic School tackles second round of COVID restrictions

Angela Gordon-Black (left), Principal of Callaloo Mews Basic School, in discussion with Stephannie Coy, Project Manager at the Desnoes and Geddes Foundation.

Angela Gordon-Black (left), Principal of Callaloo Mews Basic School, in discussion with Stephannie Coy, Project Manager at the Desnoes and Geddes Foundation.

With recent spikes in COVID-19 cases prompting the Jamaican government to consider tightening health protocols, many within the already burdened education system are feeling the pressure. For teachers, parents and students in underserved communities like Callaloo Mews off Spanish Town Road, the new school year marks yet another obstacle they will have to overcome as they establish a COVID-19 learning norm.

“So far, our biggest obstacle has been the cost of making changes to our school facilities. We still have to get foot pedal bins, set up screening stations for visitors, hire additional staff and purchase material for renovations—all of these have sent us way over our normal budget,” said Angela Gordon-Black, principal of the Callaloo Mews Basic School.

Since the Ministry of Education announced plans for the phased reopening of schools, Gordon-Black has been working around the clock to ensure that her school can comply with the COVID-19 protocols. She admits that it has been a daunting task.

“What’s worse is that we are a small school, so we can’t increase fees when less than 50 percent of our students are currently able to pay. We rely heavily on external help, which is why we’re always so grateful when organizations like the D&G Foundation are willing to extend a hand,” she noted.

Earlier this year, the government pledged to assist early-childhood learning centres with a sanitization grant to offset the impact of COVID-19 restrictions. However, for institutions already operating on a tight budget, there remains a huge gap.

Recognising this need, the Desnoes & Geddes (D&G) Foundation has donated approximately $200,000 in sanitization products to schools facing similar financial difficulty. The donation packages include thermometers, face shields, masks, hand soaps, sanitizers, and dispensers - all of which would otherwise have to be bought by the schools.

D&G Foundation project manager Stephannie Coy said, “As it stands, September will be a make or break period for our nation. It will be a time when the private sector, and the wider society, will have to make it their civic duty to ensure that students have all they need to succeed in the upcoming academic year. We believe support for our students is critical and we’re calling on other organizations to do what they can to help our schools and teachers as they go through these unprecedented times.”

In the past few months, the foundation has worked with Callaloo Mews and other schools in the Spanish Town Road community to address health and nutrition concerns faced by families. Coy noted that this latest round of support represents the foundation’s continued commitment to impact lives and enrich communities.

“So much has been sacrificed to see our students through to September morning,” said Gordon-Black. “Over the past few weeks, we’ve worked with teachers and volunteers from the community to get the school compound up to standard, signed up for government protocol workshops, done work on our bathrooms, and adjusted classrooms and play areas to meet all the new standards. It’s been a lot of work. Next is the round of inspection by Ministry officials and I would be lying if I said that we were not nervous.”

The school administrator said despite the unknown and the many challenges ahead, her team is driven by their love for the children and their commitment to seeing them through the worst of it.

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