ST. THOMAS – With students returning to in-person learning beginning Monday, the VI Department of Education is tasked with implementing its plan to use US bailout funds to address student learning loss. pandemic-related students and adhering to rigid COVID-19 safety protocols among other responsibilities.
Victor Somme III, the department’s deputy commissioner who testified on behalf of Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin, told an Education and Workforce Development Committee hearing on Thursday that the agency continues to struggle to lift low vaccination rates among staff and students in the public school system. . As of March 11, 264 cases of COVID-19 have been reported and 175 of the positive cases have been found in employees, he said.
When the department conducted an inaugural vaccination campaign, it revealed “hesitancy and lack of knowledge” about vaccination, Somme said.
Surveys of 269 parents and employees indicated that the overwhelming majority did not feel comfortable with the idea of being vaccinated and needed ongoing vaccination education. Even with continued campaigns, Somme said that in February only 57% of staff were fully vaccinated.
“Despite the low vaccination rate among department employees and the dismal responses from the recent survey, the partnership continues unabated with a second vaccination campaign for students, parents, faculty and staff which began on 14 February 2021 in every public school. in the territory on a 21-day rotating schedule until May 4, 2022,” Somme said.
Now that K-12 grades have returned to classroom instruction, education staff continue to use COVID-19 case management reports to monitor and track positive cases and close contact exposure on the campus.
Ericilda Ottley-Herman, acting island superintendent for the District of St. Croix, said student learning loss was another target of concern for the department, but that much of the federal grant won on Nov. 23 2021 will be used to mitigate the pandemic. -related struggle.
“One of the main uses of how we’re going to use our US bailout funds is to have a high dose tutorial – kind of like when doctors implement antibiotics and you need ‘a higher or stronger dose infused regularly’, Ottley mentioned. “It feels like intensive tutoring that happens one-on-one or in a very small group.”
The department plans to implement a tiered program that categorizes children in need of focused tutoring services that serve to address social and emotional development, academic learning, physical health and mental well-being, Ottley-Herman said.
Level three students are those performing below standard, of which Ottley-Herman said there were “a lot” of students but did not have a firm number to provide to the committee.
Separately, lawmakers held in committee a bill sponsored by Senator Milton Potter that aims to provide mental health education and instruction, and struck down another bill to create an office within the VI Department of Education called the Bureau of School Construction and Maintenance.
The bill was defeated by the committee in a 3 to 3 vote, but sought to establish an office responsible for the maintenance, inspection, construction, renovation, repair and the modernization of public schools in the territory.
The senses. Potter, Janelle Sarauw, Donna Frett-Gregory, Kurt Vialet, Kenneth Gittens, Carla Joseph and Genevieve Whitaker attended the hearing.