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Oct 7, 2021

Were Belize City High Schools Ready for October 4th Reopening?

On Monday, the Ministry of Education gave the go-ahead for hybrid instruction to resume for schools that meet strict requirements under the existing COVID guidelines.  Not surprisingly, many of those schools, despite having met the requirements, including vaccinations for teachers and students, have not opened their doors.  In tonight’s COVID Chronicles, we look at the top three high schools in Belize City and their state of readiness for a return to the classroom, even in a limited or shift form, as well as their reasons for remaining closed.



Isani Cayetano, Reporting

How prepared are Belize City’s top three secondary schools to resume face-to-face instructions?  Taking into consideration that October fourth was assigned as the date for all eligible schools across the country to reopen, we looked at St. John’s College, E.P. Yorke High School and St. Catherine Academy to determine their overall state of readiness.  This includes the number of students and teachers who have been fully inoculated, as well as their physical preparedness.


Karen Canto

Karen Canto, Principal, E.P. Yorke High School

“This year, it was pretty much just tweaking our plans and to get ready for school to open face-to-face as of August twenty-third, honestly. That’s what we had expected that we would be here in a shift system and then of course that did not happen. The minister had expressed that we were to be online and then the fourth of October we would be here face-to-face.”


That date eventually came and went. Classrooms at E.P. Yorke remain closed, despite having been modified to fall in line with strict COVID regulations. At SCA, almost one hundred percent of the administrative staff, including teachers, is vaccinated. While there is no mandate for students to get their jabs, parents do have the final say on physical attendance.


Salome Tillett

Salome Tillett, Principal, St. Catherine Academy

“In terms of the vaccinated, we have a hundred percent of our faculty and staff vaccinated, and that’s very good.  We are not prepared to come back to school at this time.  We listen to the medical experts and we hear from them that Belize is in the horns of a third wave of this deadly Delta virus and we have had losses: parents, grandparents, other family members and we believe it would be very unfair to ask our parents to send their students out and with sending the students out means bringing the teachers out as well.”


St. John’s College has gone the extra mile in retrofitting its classrooms and computer labs. According to headmaster Fidel Pol, the ministries of Education and Health & Wellness has granted permission for the high school to reopen.


Fidel Pol

Fidel Pol, Principal, SJC

“We were inspected by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to ensure that all our facilities follow the guidelines and that they are ready for our students. We passed, they gave us the green light to have our students here and, in terms of the infrastructure, we are ready. We have the classrooms set according to the physical distance, we have the hand washing stations, we have, you know, everything that will ensure that our students are safe while they are here at school.”


Notwithstanding the retrofitting of teaching spaces, as well as an uptick in vaccinated teachers and students, parents are reluctant to send their children to school amid the surge in COVID infections during this third wave.


Salome Tillett

“I can tell you that for the teachers, we ask them to send us proof of their vaccination status and we can say for a fact that a hundred percent of our faculty and staff are vaccinated. Students are self-declared and we believe we are at about sixty-five percent at this time.”


Fidel Pol

“So far, we have seventy percent of our students vaccinated. We are contacting the parents of the other thirty percent and we are trying to get another date so that they can come to school and another date with the Ministry of Health so that they can come to school and provide the vaccine to the other students because many of them have indicated, of the thirty who are not vaccinated, many of them have indicated that they would, they are willing to take the vaccine now.”


Karen Canto

“We still have a lot of parents who, for different reasons, have not had their kids vaccinated, but right now we are at about fifty-two percent vaccinated. When we handed in our survey, we were at about forty-nine, but this morning I sat and I went through again and, you know, we have gone up a little bit.”


In the case of E.P. Yorke, the teachers were the ones who decided unanimously that the school was not ready to have students return to their classrooms.


Karen Canto

“We decided as a staff that we are going to wait a little bit and the parents have applauded that. They are supporting us a hundred percent and we are hoping for the day when we can be here.”


By contrast, News Five tried reaching out to several other Belize City high schools, including Wesley College, but our attempts to get their vaccination numbers and classroom readiness were unsuccessful.


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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