Published On: Tue, Apr 28th, 2020

Gracita: Establish school for autistic students



Philipsburg, April 27, 2020

Gracita R. Arrindell states: “Education remains a key factor in the development of our nation.

St. Maarten has been under government-mandated lockdown since early March. It is clear that being confined for long periods of time can bring tension among citizens resulting in dangerous behavior.

When government decisions are made based on plans that are carefully thought out and evaluated regularly on its merits, social escalation, can be prevented, or mitigated”.

“This virus is a clearly a game changer for everyone. Short and long term planning is a pre-condition for the successful re-opening in phases of our community, per district, per type of business, etcetera. We need each other more than ever before going forward. Government must have the foresight and the tools to get the job done unbiased. Decisions can no longer be made on an ad-hoc basis.

On the other hand, our people must be willing to have the discipline to adapt to a different way of doing business”, said Arrindell.

Gracita continued and states; “take the reopening of our schools for example. What steps are taken and in which time frame to ensure the safe return of our students to their respective establishment of learning.

This disclosure must be done in a timely and transparent manner”.

“It has been too quiet for comfort as far as it concerns being updated of safety measures taken before the school gates are allowed to re-open. Safety measures must take place now, while the schoolyards are still empty”, said Gracita.

“Post covid-19 era compels to continuously update and decide what policies work best in keeping our students safe and healthy. Solid plans based on reliable data, in order to execute policies with a budget carefully worked out and discussed with stakeholders in the field, prior to the schools reopening”.

“Preventing the spread remains a priority.

St. Maarten is a small population, with a relatively large student population.

Approximately thirty(30) schools and over eight thousand students, some located in densely populated neighborhoods.

This includes public- as well as private schools that are subsidized by government. This list is further divided into primary, secondary, vocational and special education institutions. In this equation we support the call to establish a separate learning institution for our autistic students”.

Arrindell continues; “best practices must be part of the new curriculum when the new school year starts.

Plans should include the following;

  • a covid-19 district to district mobilization plan to deep-clean all schools. Including placing of sanitizing stations at entry, sanitizing/safety protocols in each class- room and around the school premises.
  • student social distancing
  • ensure that social divide, does not translate to digital divide for our students”.

“We, support the call of many parents, to establish a school for autistic students. This is not a luxury issue.

It’s a void in our educational system. St. Maarten has hundreds of kids at several degrees of autism. Where to house these students?

Reportedly, government is currently in the process to purchase the BTP building in Philipsburg for close to five million US dollars. Surely it merits the effort to negotiate and purchase the empty building in Cay Hill re: ‘Justice Park’ to establish the abovementioned school. The location can also be considered to house the Charlotte Brookson Academy of the Performance Arts”.

Gracita concludes: It’s critically important that our citizens hold government, including Parliament accountable for its actions. Responsible preparation towards re-opening of our schools in particular, should be executed in a manner that is structured that gives piece of mind to all involved”.