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PSS moving forward on hybrid learning

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THE Public School System is implementing hybrid learning in the new school year, PSS senior director Dr. Yvonne Pangelinan said during a Board of Education meeting on Friday.

PSS also wants to be sure that it is in line with the governor’s executive order, she added..

“We still have to adhere to the three Ws [watch six-foot distance, wash your hands, and wear your mask],” she said. “We don’t know too much about the virus. We have  current research, [but] we don’t fully know how this is going to impact the student population.”

She said the CNMI has returned to Community Vulnerability Level  Blue, but some restrictions are still in effect, and “we can’t arbitrarily decide to bring all of our kids back [to school].”

She said the six-foot distance in classrooms and walkways “limits the amount of space that we have.”

But PSS will slowly bring in the children in small groups for face-to-face instruction, she added.

She said all teachers are retrofitting their classrooms and implementing other measures to enhance the safety of students.

In addition, PSS has issued a request for proposals for school nurses to monitor the health of students and teachers. 

“The monitoring piece is critical because we need to know if all of the safety measures that we are putting in place are working,” Pangelinan said.

Until there is a vaccine available, Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada said he and the school principals believe that “it is not yet safe to open for face-to-face instruction.”

Speaking for Rota public schools, BOE vice chairman Herman Atalig said they are not yet ready for face-to-face instruction as well.

“The only thing stopping us [from doing face-to-face] is the strict three Ws. We could do face masks, we could do the cleaning, but the six feet apart can only accommodate 10 students per classroom. That is basically why I feel that we are not ready to open fully because of the distancing restriction,” Atalig said.

During the BOE meeting, Oleai Elementary School teacher Bertha Orsini said PSS should allow  parents to choose online learning or face-to-face instruction for their children.

“The CNMI is probably the safest place in the world to have face-to-face education. Our private schools have already shown us that it can be done,” said Orsini, a kindergarten teacher.

Teachers, moreover, have spent two weeks calling up parents to ask them if they have internet at home or not, she said.

As part of the online/remote learning system, PSS will distribute MiFi devices and over 10,000 laptops and iPads to its students.

Orsini said one parent told her that online learning is depriving the children of the opportunity to socialize with their peers.

“One mom said, ‘What good is an iPad if I cannot go to work or pay for electricity?’ I think of all the kids who call their teachers ‘mom.’ I’m sure they would want face-to-face learning. We can have the highest resolution webcam, but it can never replace the look in a child’s eyes when you tell them ‘you can do it.’”

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