St Thomas Technical teachers blast work-from-school arrangement

Despite a recent work-from-home order for public sector employees, which came into effect on Thursday (March 4), some teachers are still required to attend school, despite not teaching examination grades.

Among those required to attend are educators at the St Thomas Technicalschool, who say going into the school is putting them at an increased risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.

One teacher, who spoke to BUZZ on the condition of anonymity, shared that there was a discrepancy between the school’s position as it relates to working from home, and that of the Ministry of Education.

“The principal’s response to teachers who question the need to come in is absolute nonsense…”

– St Thomas Technical High School teacher

According to the teacher, she has made several calls to the ministry, as well as, the Jamaica Teachers Association, and was told only educators teaching exam grades are physically required to be there.

However, the teacher told BUZZ that the school’s position is that all teachers must be in school, irrespective of the grade they teach. 

“My issue is at my school there is no justification, there is no logic for teachers who don’t teach fifth form- they want all of us to be on campus every day except Fridays – Whether you teach fifth form or not. Personally, I don’t teach fifth or sixth form this year, why do I need to go to school physically to teach virtually,” the teacher said.

According to a second educator, who teaches a specialty subject, the issue was raised at a staff meeting and staff were told everyone has to be there because some teachers were not attending classes. 

While recognising the need to have accountability, the teacher believes that the school administrators need to take a different approach to solving the problem.

“She (the principal) is basically saying that some teachers are not going to class. But you can sit right in the staff room and decide not to go. I’ve seen it over and over,” the teacher shared 

“They need to find some other way to ensure accountability. Why do I need to travel to school – taking public transport at that- to teach a virtual class. Why? You have almost 60 people coming in and we wonder why COVID-19 is spreading,” added the teacher.

In addition to increasing the chances for contracting and spreading the virus, the teacher pointed out that, oftentimes, going into the school is counterproductive. 

The teacher shared that on several occasions educators have exhausted the whole day at the school sitting in the staff room attempting to connect to the Internet. 

“It makes no sense, we just sit there because the Internet connectivity is poor, worse there are so many of us attempting to get on,” the teacher said. 

“I was at school two days before midterms and there was no Internet connectivity and all we did was just sit there for Monday and Tuesday no teaching was done unless the teacher decided that look I am going to use my data to have classes,” the teacher added.

According to the teacher another major problem is that the leadership at the school attempts to foster an environment in which teachers are not encouraged to speak up but instead utilizes tactics that discourage conversation and openness.

The teacher revealed that she has seen testy exchanges between the principal and other staff members, who attempt to challenge the school’s position.

“The principal’s response to teachers who question the need to come in is absolute nonsense, such as, ‘the board said…’ but when I called the JTA they said ‘nothing like that’,” added the teacher.

The teacher further revealed that at least three staff members, including two teachers, at the institution have tested positive for COVID-19. 

BUZZ reached out to the principal at the school, who said she does not want to comment on the matter.

Similarly the vice-principal declined to comment on the matter.