Emotions high as parents return children to school in Arima

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Students and teachers at assembly, the first in two years, at the Arima Boys’ RC School on Tuesday morning. – ROGER JACOB

Parents displayed an array of emotions on Tuesday as they walked their children to the gates of their schools for the first time in two years – and some of them for the first time ever.

On March 28, Minister of Education Nyan Gadsby-Dolly announced the full reopening of schools – from ECCE to tertiary – on April 19.

Since then, parents have had mixed reactions to the announcement.

Some, like the members of the Reopen Schools TT parents group, expressed enthusiasm at the news, while others felt the ministry could have waited until September to give parents more time to prepare and buy school supplies.

On Tuesday, the Santa Rosa RC Church park was abuzz with activity as the three schools surrounding the park – Arima Girls’ Government, Arima Girls’ RC and Arima Boys’ RC primary schools – were crowded with parents and students who turned out in their numbers to bring their children to school.

Arard Daniel and his son Gabriel Daniel spoke to Newsday in the park on their way to Arima Boys’ RC.

“I’m a bit excited and happy to see them out, but at the same time we must be mindful that the virus is still out there,” said Daniel, adding he had taken the necessary precautions to ensure his son was safe.

“We’re getting them back into the routine of things. That’s the importance of getting them back to normal, whatever that may be,” he joked.

Gabriel said he was happy to be out and could not wait to see his friends.

Mother of two Arima RC students Alana Galera-Gordon said she felt good about her younger son, Rasheed Gordon, going back out to school.

“My older son is in standard five, and from what I’ve seen (the school) is ready,” she said, adding she had prepared him by telling him the do’s and don’ts of his new school environment.

Shantel Blanc, mother of six-year-old Renique Blanc – a first-year student at Arima Girls’ RC – said she was a little scared but excited about her daughter going to school for the first time.

“Because they are so small, they will want to share and play,” she said. “I went to this school and I wanted her to go here. I just hope she excels in school.”

Blanc said there were pros and cons to both the physical and online classrooms.

“With online, parents can’t go to work. I am a single parent, so it’s kind of difficult either way.”

Michelle Oliviere said she was happy to see her daughter Gabrielle, back out to school atArima Girls’ Government.

“Sshe could not take the online (classes).”

She said she was not nervous about the transition other than worrying her daughter will be able to play and enjoy herself.

“I am not worried about the virus.”

While most parents expressed some excitement, others were visibly anxious, with several sitting in the park or outside the gate until the school bell rang, some even after.

Before the bell, a teacher at Arima Girls’ RC was heard making the morning announcements over the PA system, according to the Ministry of Education’s guidelines for all schools.

She cautioned all children always to keep their masks on.

“For some of you, it is your first time wearing masks. It will be a bit uncomfortable, but we must think about everyone. We must take care of ourselves and others.”

She also said students were not permitted to share stationery or snacks, and washrooms will be sanitised after each use.

At the Pinehaven SDA Primary School, D’Abadie, parents and grandparents were also a bit apprehensive.

One grandfather, dropping his grandson off, spoke to Newsday anonymouslyto say, “I’m not so comfortable, but comfortable, if you know what I mean. Today is orientation, so we can’t really tell how things will go until later in the week. We will have to wait and see.”

A father, Horris Sampson, said he has some anxiety about his son Liam Sampson returning to school.

“I hope they have everything in place so that we can come back out, because online wasn’t really working for him. But I am still concerned about certain things.”

Liam said he was a little bit scared but also happy to see all his friends.