Published On: Thu, Aug 13th, 2020

Learning Unlimited defies Education Ministry’s closure-order

Minister of Education Rodolphe Samuel

PHILIPSBURG – All public and private schools have to remain closed for onsite education, Education Minister Rodolphe Samuel wrote in a letter to all school boards on August 11, but that message was apparently wasted on the management of Learning Unlimited. It welcomed its students back the following day, got closed down by the police, and later reopened again for business.

“Students are to continue to receive education via distance learning,” Minister Samuel wrote to the school boards. The minister urges schools to comply with the decision, threatening those who don’t with “an instruction to seize operations.”

Learning Unlimited’s director Daunesh Alcott (see photo below) released a statement that outlines the measures the school has taken to protect the health of staff and teachers. The school produced a 30-page Hygiene Procedural Handbook for students, teachers, and parents that at first glance covers all bases. But the ministry insists that the school only delivered this plan on August 8 and that inspectors still have to double-check and, eventually, approve it.

Learning Unlimited’s drive to reopen its school for business is understandable: as a private school, it is a business, and parents who send their kids there are paying serious money for the pleasure. The question is of course what has to prevail: the economic interest of the school or the health of teachers and staff.

On Wednesday, the Education Ministry published its Plan for Education Continuity in the National Gazette. It is a comprehensive document that runs more than thirty pages and contains different scenarios for the continuation of on-site and off-site learning.

To read the full document go to http://www.sintmaartengov.org/government/AZ/laws/Pages/National-Gazette.aspx and click on 19. Landscourant Special Edition 12 augustus 2020.pdf). There are countless details but the basic ideas and the bottom line approach to combating the corona-virus remain the same: practice good hygiene and social distancing, wear a facemask and stay home if you have any symptoms.

To make social distancing in class feasible, the ministry suggests letting half of all classes come in on a couple of days a week, while the other half comes in on other days.

Given the rapid increase of infections over the past weeks however, the ministry had hit the alarm button and decided to close down all schools until further notice.

LU Director Daunesh Alcott

Learning Unlimited’s director Alcott notes in his expose about the school’s Hygiene Procedural Handbook that exclusive distance learning is not an option for his students: “Online learning is generally not the solution for future education models anywhere involving students in their formative years through high school. Part of a successful school experience is developing the whole child. That involves positive and negative peer interactions, coping skills, dealing with rules and consequences, social problem-solving skills, dealing with authority figures, learning valuable life-skills, etc. Just having academic skills will not prepare children for future endeavors in their later lives. I think that is pretty universally understood by parents and educators, alike.”

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Related links:
Letter Minister of Education to Private School Boards
Plan for Education Continuity
National Gazette
Press release Learning Unlimited’s Director Daunesh Alcott regarding Hygiene Procedural Handbook
Opinion: Getting to a better place (about public health vs economic health)