Published On: Mon, Aug 17th, 2020

Minister of Education Drs. Rodolphe Samuel’s approach to reopening schools

PHILIPSBURG – The bottom line of Education Minister Drs. Rodolphe Samuel to reopening the schools remains focused on three by now familiar issues: wearing facemasks, washing hands and social distancing. Nothing new there, but in the meantime the ministry as well as the schools are struggling with what is happening in the real world.

Learning Unlimited preparatory school went to court to fight the closure of its business (and came out on top) and at the Caribbean International Academy CIA) the school wants to follow the guidelines of the ministry, but parents threaten to take it to court if it does not open.

In the meantime, Minister Samuel is urging the schools to stick to distance learning for the time being, but he does not have a legal basis to enforce such a measure.

Minister of Education: “Education has to continue.”

On July 31, the minister said in an elucidation on a letter he sent that day to the parent and guardians that “education has to continue.” Samuel added that his ministry is taking “different issues into consideration.” Those issues are infections, hospitalizations and inspections. “While we take these issues into consideration we are going to pay attention to three main requests.”

That’s where Samuel returns to the themes of wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing. Then the ministry is going to look at the size of class rooms and the health of students and teachers at each individual school. “When we put all this information together we can then decide depending on school type,” the minister stated.

Samuel then mentioned several options, like having students come to school on different days and a combination of studying in school and at home. But there is no clear decision: “All these combinations are not set in stone. These are the things we are going to think about while we put the safety of everyone first.”

In his letter of July 31 to parents and guardians, Samuel wrote that a decision had been taken “for all schools to start with online learning until further notice.”

The letter announced a review of the COVID-19 situation within the next three weeks (therefore, up to August 21) and contains a sliver of (hopeful) optimism: “Once the situation has improved significantly and community transmission has been once again brought under control the ministry will inform when a return to onsite education can be expected.”


Relevant links:
Minister Samuel urges schools to do distance learning
Letter Minister of Education to all school boards – August 16, 2020
Letter Minister of Education to private school boards – August 11, 2020
Letter Minister of Education re: online classes – July 31, 2020
Court ruling Learning Unlimited vs Government of Sint Maarten – August 14, 2020
Letter CIA board president to Minister of Education