On March 10, 2020, Jamaica was plunged into unknown territory, when the first confirmed Corona Virus (COVID-19) case was announced.
This announcement affected everyone everywhere. The education sector was affected and the Ministry of Education ordered schools island-wide to be closed as of March 13, 2020.
The Willowdene Group of Schools (WGOS) was no exception and had to quickly adapt a ‘new norm’ to facilitate continued education to its students. A Curriculum Taskforce was soon commissioned by the School Board. This task force would examine the Schools’ online timetable, use of online learning platforms explore possible adjustments and create the best fit for all stakeholders.
According to Mr Peter Williams, Principal of the before the ending of the second term, March 17 to April 8, 2020, various platforms were being used for online learning throughout the three schools: WhatsApp ZOOM Emails Google Meet/Hangouts Edmodo.
"Identifying a number of challenges the school used the Easter break to meet with the Admin Council and Staff. As a result, an adjusted timetable was developed and the Google Classroom platform was being used in the Preparatory and High schools. While Edmodo was being used in the Early Childhood Department. Other supporting platforms included ZOOM JITSI Google Meet/Hangouts. To better facilitate the ‘new’ learning process, teachers attended online training sessions by the Ministry of Education, The Jamaica Teaching Council, as well as, the use of YouTube Tutorials, he said.
Teachers were advised to:
1. Maintain our Christian focus at all times
2. Take a register at every class
3. Tweak Guidance and Counselling sessions to accommodate the ‘new norm’.
4. End schools on or before 2:30 PM. (However, many teachers endeavour to facilitate parents and students after work hours)
5. Promote students based on work done before the COVID-19 crisis along with work being done online.
Parents of the schools are asked to evaluate the online learning platforms, to which they have responded favourably. They are also appreciative of the work being done for the students.
“I must commend my daughter’s school and her teacher who work assiduously to meet the parents/child through different media. They are on point with communication and each child’s spiritual, learning, and social needs are being met”, one parent expressed.
Presently the schools have enrolled, 203 of its 266 students from the High school, 250 of its 308 from the Preparatory, and 111 of its 137 Early Childhood Division online.
As the Willowdene Group of Schools adapt to its ‘new norm’ ongoing workshops are facilitated on different platforms by Mr Karl Graham, Mrs Charmaine Johnson-Whyte and Pastor Damian Chambers.