Published On: Mon, Aug 17th, 2020

Minister Samuel urges schools to do distance learning

PHILIPSBURG – “It was never the intention of the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport to close schools,” Education Minister Drs. Rodolphe Samuel writes in a letter dated August 16 to all subsidized schools and all private school boards. At the same time, Samuel urges schools to begin the new academic years with distance learning for a period of at least three weeks.

On August 11, the minister instructed all private schools by letter to remain closed for onsite learning until further notice, but the court ruling Learning Unlimited obtained from the Court in First Instance shows that the ministry cannot enforce this decision until there is an administrative decision to support it.

Minister Samuel notes in Sunday’s letter that his Education Continuity Plan (published in its entirety in the National Gazette) serves as a guideline for how to continue with education “while simultaneously ensuring that the health of the students and staff are not compromised.”

When Samuel urged the schools to begin with distance learning in his July 31-letter, the number of active COVID19 cases was 49; currently there are 193 active cases.

“We believe that the primary responsibility of a school is to provide good education at an accredited standard,” Samuel writes. “We believe however that it is equally imperative that such is done in a safe environment.”

Considering the public health situation, the minister says that schools should not expose students and teachers to a health risk.

Minister Samuel is practically begging the schools to engage in distance learning until further notice. “It is my sincere hope that you will adhere to the appeal to temporarily engage in distance learning as outlined in my letter of July 31.”

Samuel furthermore observes that the majority of schools (therefore: not all schools) recognize the serious nature of COVID-19. The ministers “trusts” that schools that are thinking about opening their doors for onsite learning will reconsider that decision.

In the meantime, the ministry received a letter from the CIA (Caribbean International Academy Foundation) and the Montessori School with an urgent request for clear measures and guidance. Parents are threatening to take the school to court if it keeps its doors closed. “If the government does not have a decree to close private schools we do not have a foot to stand on,” CIA-President Huguette Halley wrote to the ministry. We need to know how to respond to parents. We are in a very difficult position and we need your help and direction.”


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