Abu Dhabi: As schools throughout Abu Dhabi continue to reopen, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) has announced it will continue regular inspections of all schools and nurseries to ensure ongoing compliance to wide-ranging COVID-19 prevention protocols.
ADEK has identified a sliding scale of penalties for regulation breaches with fines ranging from Dh10,000 to Dh250,000. Repeated non-compliance can lead to schools being forced to shift to distance learning provision, with parents entitled to remove their children from the school and gain fee refunds. Based on inspections, non-compliant nurseries can be immediately moved to distance learning for a week, or fined.
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After inspecting all schools in the emirate last August and issuing No Objection Certificates to 220 compliant schools to reopen, ADEK is mandating further checks to maintain safety standards, with those found flouting the guidelines set to face stiff penalties. “We have to put the safety of our community first and ongoing inspections are vital to ensure parents have confidence in the safety protocols of our schools and nurseries … said Amer Al Hammadi, undersecretary of ADEK. Speaking about the penalties, he said: “Our sincere hope is that none of these penalties will have to be exacted. We have confidence in our school and nursery communities and their desire to adhere to the regulations for the safety of all.”
As of this February, ADEK has conducted inspections at 221 schools reopening for in-classroom education and 119 operational nurseries. The inspections track compliance across a range of 62 criteria, including adherence to social distancing protocols; the existence of on-premise COVID task forces; regular cleaning and disinfection programmes; regular COVID-19 testing of staff and students aged 12 years and above; regulated classroom numbers, PPE equipment standards, and daily routine checks conducted by a nominated school compliance officer to ensure safety regulations are being followed.
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Ban on extra-curricular activities
Meanwhile, ADEK has also announced the ban on extra-curricular activities on school premises will remain in force, with light athletic activities only allowed outdoors during normal scheduled PE classes and under social distancing rules. In addition, parents are allowed to enter school premises providing they show a negative PCR test result with 96-hour validity or demonstrate ‘emergency use’ status on their Al Hosn App.
School tours for new and prospective parents may also resume, while class sizes have been increased to a maximum of 30 students with 1.5m social distancing and compulsory face masks for Grade 1 and above.
At the kindergarten level, class size is capped at 25 students with 1.5-metre social distancing. Bubbles for younger children remain at a maximum of 10 students, in addition to a dedicated teaching team.