All local schools were allowed to open for face-to-face classes for this school year that began yesterday. But Education Minister, Dr Wheatley said there are existing “capabilities to switch to online, hybrid or blended learning as the need may arise.”
In a document containing his party’s suggestions for managing the reopening of schools in the COVID-19 era, Opposition Leader Marlon Penn noted the rising rates of absenteeism and dropout rates during this pandemic.
“Too many of our students are not attending classes regularly or at all. This is particularly true in areas where parents are unable to monitor their children, especially our young men,” the document stated.
The document said the matter of attendance and absenteeism must be addressed and further cited the territory’s Education Act; section 40 of which outlines the minister’s role in designating School Attendance Officers (Truancy Officers) “for the enforcement of compulsory school attendance in respect of all children of compulsory school age within the district or area to which he is assigned”.
In a recent sitting of the House of Assembly last month, Dr Wheatley said “the total number of dropouts for all secondary public schools [last year] is 13”.
Giving a breakdown, he further said one dropout came from Grade 7, three were in Grade 8, another three were from Grade 9, two were dropouts from Grade 10, while three and one came out of grades 11 and 12, respectively.
He said the Bregado Flax Educational Centre Secondary Division on Virgin Gorda produced seven student dropouts. Those represented the majority.
Elmore Stoutt High School (ESHS) on Tortola followed with four student dropouts while the Virgin Islands School of Technical Studies had two.
As for absenteeism, the minister said the overall rate for last year was seven percent across all local public high schools.
There was a combined total of approximately 2,221,408 attendances and 165,124 absents recorded across the territory’s four public high schools last year.
“In summary, for Grade 7 there is an overall seven percent absent rate; Grade 8, eight percent average rate; Grade 9, eight percent absent rate; Grade 10, six percent absent rate; Grade 11, eight percent absent rate; Grade 12, seven percent for the period of April 2020 to May 2021,” Dr Wheatley told the House.
The minister further said at the time that, in a lot of the cases, the students in question were experiencing challenges such as poor internet, as well as other difficulties that would interrupt their ability to attend classes online.
The absentee and dropout rates are expected to fall with this year’s the resumption of face-to-face classes.