Minister for Education, Youth, Sports, Agriculture and Lands, Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly provided an update on a number of measures taken by the various departments under her remit yesterday (Friday, 20 March 2020).
The Minister was speaking at the daily press conference to announce and share information about daily developments in Government’s dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are the highlights of some departments’ actions so far, as provided by the Minister.
• All schools officially closed on Monday 16 March 2020 and are set to reopen on 27 April 2020.
• Through surveys that complete today, the department is learning about technology access by parents to be able to provide adequate support for parents during their children’s ongoing home study programme.
• All government schools have implemented home learning contingencies for students through a range of channels including paper-based learning packages for those without internet, a daily timetable and access to online platforms.
• Similarly, the department has implemented a number of online platforms such as Everest and WhatsApp groups to communicate with parents.
• Department is still working to find out how school closure will affect external exams for high school leavers such as CXC, GCSE and A-Levels.
• UK has announced summer sittings of exams including GCSE and A-levels are cancelled in the UK but clarity on how it will impact students in the Cayman Islands is being sought.
• Department is currently exploring access to CXC content through a public private sector partnership with FLOW which will allow exam students to continue learning and prepare for CXC syllabus.
• All teachers have access to platform ZOOM at no cost.
• Steps are being taken to expand the curriculum provision for online learning to continue.
• Parents are asked to create a quiet workspace for children at home away from distractions and encourage them to maintain good learning and working habits.
• Teachers will continue to communicate directly with students and parents through all means at their disposal.
• Parents who have not received home learning materials or have questions may contact the principal or director of their child’s school.
• Eight persons arriving today have opted to use the government provided dedicated isolation facility.
• There are 29 persons currently housed at the facility.
• Ministry team and volunteers have been at the airport since Thursday to welcome and assist the returning students.
• Bus contractors and janitorial teams have been deployed through the department.
• Buses are fully cleaned and sanitized after each trip.
• It is proposed to waive fees from 23 March to 30 April 2020 for students applying for full overseas and local transcripts.
Free School Meals:
• Department has support from Kiwanis and Feed Our Future (FOF) to run a voucher and daily lunch programme.
• All primary school cafeteria providers are on board. FOF will pay cafeteria operators directly using existing protocols.
• FOF will purchase vouchers from Fosters and deliver to schools. They will also collect the Kiwanis vouchers.
• Operating hours of the various units and services under DoA, such as Administration, Nursery, Warehouse, Abbatoir, Animal Control and Welfare services have been updated. This information is available on the Department of Agriculture (DoA) Facebook Page which is www.facebook.com/agriculturecayman and will also be available on www.gov.ky by the end of the Friday.
• Efforts to protect staff and customers are regularly updated on social media platforms including installation of an outside sales window in Cayman Brac, reduced hours and office closures.
• All vulnerable employees of Department of Agriculture (DoA) have been sent home to self-isolate. Others are monitored regarding further requests for isolation.
• Re-deployment has being activated internally.
• Flexible work arrangements have been arranged for staff to allow them to work remotely.
• DoA has increased its sanitization efforts and suggested preventative measures are still being practiced.
• DoA has significantly increased the ordering of feed and fertilizer.
• Despite significant increases in purchases, DoA has been able to service every customer demand to date and are has adequate supplies on route.
• Every effort will be made to service commercial farmers as normal. Farmers who have ordered seedlings will be notified when they are ready for collection.
• The Animal Control and Welfare Services trapping service has been temporarily suspended.
• The Animal Rescue Shelter is closed.
• DoA will continue to monitor and address any serious animal welfare or control issues.
• The Farmers Market continues to operate as it is akin to a supermarket and is an essential food source. All persons attending the market are asked to follow the CIG/HSA recommended actions regarding COVID.
• Water Authority closed its office to the public, effective today 20 March 2020, to protect the health and safety of customers and staff.
• Penalties will be waived for the month of March.
• The Authority has developed a COVID-19 Payment Deferral Policy for customers facing financial hardship due to Coronavirus pandemic. Customers can contact the Authority via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 949-2837 to discuss with a Customer Service Representative.
• In the interest of public health, the Authority has postponed all disconnections until further notice. Customers who were previously disconnected, due to past non-payment, are asked to contact the Authority via email so that arrangements can be made to reconnect service. Email email@example.com or call 949-2837.
• The Authority is providing essential services only. These are services that ensure customers have water supply and wastewater services.
• There are a variety of ways for customers to make payments. Payments can be made online by visiting the Authority’s website www.waterauthority.ky or via local banks. Customers can pay with a cheque via the Authority’s office dropbox. Cash payments can be made via local bank counters or the Post Office.
• Water Authority staff will work in rotation, or remotely where possible.
Responding to a question whether returning scholarship holders would be putting their scholarships in jeopardy if they breach self-isolation protocols, the Minister said each situation would depend on circumstances.
However, criminal breaches were not a joke. “Government provides millions in scholarship funds in the budget, which is to the tune of $10-12 million and the legitimate expectation is a level of responsibility by our students to follow the stipulated protocols. Prevention is everyone’s business,” the Minister added.