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In a quiet school, a safe environment for children of frontline workers

Photo by Gabriella Peralta

On a quiet morning yesterday, children who would normally be on a week-long Easter break instead silently coloured in their worksheets in St Anne’s School.
A far cry from a bustling school, just some 50 middle school children were in attendance, and in each classroom a handful of children.
The children from all middle schools in Gibraltar are in St Anne’s as their parents need to work during this lockdown and cannot leave the children with their grandparents.
Teachers said the children had adapted to life in lockdown, quickly settling in and making new friends from other schools.
But the children were well aware of the need to keep their distance from friends new and old.
In the half empty classrooms, just one child sat per desk and some proudly spoke of washing their hands regularly to ward off the virus.
The Minister for Education, Gilbert Licudi, and Director of Education Jackie Mason toured St Anne’s School yesterday, surveying the new crèche facility on offer.
Mr Licudi described how the Department of Education is providing this safe environment where key workers can leave their children anytime was 7.30am to 8.30pm.
The service, which runs seven days a week, is also open on school holiday, with some 160 attending the three new facilities daily.
But the schools are providing vital support to frontline workers and are ready to step up as necessary.
“This is a completely fluid situation that could change from one day to another,” Ms Mason said.
“You could come to school and find that you have five children, but then GHA workers are recalled to work and suddenly you have 15 children.”
“All the teachers have been organised on a rotation of shifts in all the four schools that are open at the moment.”
Henry Cawood and Luca Litchfield, both aged 10, have both enjoyed the new learning facility while their parents are at work.
Henry was a pupil at Bishop Fitzgerald School, and thought it was “cool” to have moved school and he’s made a lot of new friends.
Henry said his mum works in a school, and his dad is a law enforcement officer.
Henry said he knew the virus was very contagious and for some people symptoms did not show. He added he takes his shoes off before entering his house.
Similarly Luca was a student in St Bernard’s and said it was “fun” in St Anne’s as some of his friends have also moved to the school.
“We get to do all sorts of games so it is fun here,” Luca said.
He said his dad works in a shop and his mum is still working at Hassans.
“I know this [virus] is worldwide and it is very dangerous to elderly people,” Luca said.
“Some people are getting scared of it and want to keep inside, and keep elderly people safe. You can still go out for exercise.”
But for the vast majority of children, they are learning from home.
Mrs Mason said the advisory team had worked “relentlessly” on ensuring teachers could work from home on remote learning app Seesaw.
“This shows what can be done when it needs to be done,” Mr Licudi said.
“If we were thinking of organising the online working platform and the shift system under normal circumstances this would have probably taken months to prepare. It has actually been done in days, which is nothing short of miraculous.”
On weekday mornings children log in to the platform, which means they register their attendance, and teacher provide activities for them to do throughout the day.
“It keeps them going and gives them motivation, structure and stability to their day,” Mrs Mason said.
The school is keeping records of all those attending online classes, but in the case that a child does not log in the teachers are notifying their parents.
“We do have teachers actively calling parents and checking why it is they are not logging in,” Mr Licudi said.
“There is follow up.”
She added some art teachers have been redeployed to Public Health Gibraltar as graphic designers.

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