COVID-19: UAE schools start sharing reopening plans with parents to ensure safety


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Dubai: Following the recent government go-ahead to reopen schools in September, some institutions have started sharing their plans with parents and students about how they will safely welcome back pupils in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plans include safety measures that were recently announced by education authorities, as well as the format or ‘model’ to be followed for school day, which each school will be deciding upon based on its own requirements.

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The ‘model’ to be followed will take into consideration the scenario of all students coming in on all days, or on split (alternate) days or in shifts — whether combined with distance learning or not. Schools were asked to submit their preferred model for resuming classes and to have them approved by the authorities ahead of the reopening.

Group-wise classes

At Sharjah British International School (SBIS), all students will attend school in two groups — pre-primary and primary; and secondary and higher secondary — the school said in a recent communication to parents.

The lower grades (FS1 to Year 6) will come for the morning shift, from 7.30am to 11.30am, while students from Year 7 to 13 will attend from noon to 4pm. Classes for Year 13 will be conducted online.

In both the shifts, the maximum class size will be capped at 17 students.

All assemblies (including morning assembly), physical education classes, athletics and all other events will remain suspended until further notice, to prevent gatherings. In the classroom, students will have to sit at least one metre apart.

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Full day of class

Some schools, such as Brighton College Abu Dhabi, will see students attend full-time classes from August 30. After a staggered starting week, prep school and senior school students will follow normal school day schedule, while classes for pre-prep will be held on a half-day basis until further notice.

In Abu Dhabi, almost half (45 per cent) of the parents said they had no objection to on-campus classes for the coming academic year, according to a recent government survey. However, a little more than one in three parents (34 per cent) would like to see distance learning continue in the 2020/21 academic year.

Many schools have confirmed that they will reopen on August 30, the first day of the new academic year after the summer break, or in the first week of September.

Regular updates

In Dubai, The Indian High Group of Schools (with three schools) has set up an online web page for updates related to its reopening, along with answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs)for parents. It has also confirmed an August 30 reopening date, with the timetable for the school day to follow shortly.

Addressing the issue of social distancing on campus, the FAQs section says classrooms and furniture will be arranged in a way so that there is a space of 1.5 metres between students.

“For brief, transitory contact, such as passing by in the corridor, the school has adopted a one-way system. Each year group will be taught separately in groups — a social ‘bubble’, ensuring a distance of 1.5 metres between all students and with up to ten students per group for KG,” the school said.

Last month, ‘Protocols for the Reopening of Private Schools in Dubai’ were released by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

Protocol for private Dubai schools (source: KHDA):

If a child/teacher/staff member begins to show symptoms of COVID-19 while at school, he or she must get isolated instantly and the parent/guardian must be notified immediately. The patient should be referred to hospital for necessary action. The patient should not return to school until the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test result is obtained.

If the result is negative but there is a clinical assessment of a probable COVID-19 case, the patient should complete a 14-day quarantine. If the result is negative and there is no clinical assessment for a probable case, the child can resume schooling so long as he or she is symptom-free.

In quarantine

If the result is positive, the traced contacts of the patient, including teachers along with the classmates of a student, or colleagues are all considered close contacts (Anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes in a proximity of two metres or less with a positive case, from the day of the onset of symptoms, or the day of the positive PCR test result). All those who have been in contact with an affected person must be in quarantine for 14 days — counting from the day of the positive PCR test, or from the day of the onset of symptoms, if ascertained by the clinician.

School pantries can be opened for usage by individuals, but strictly for food and drink consumption, maintaining two metres of physical distancing. No buffets or other forms of gatherings will be allowed.

PE lessons should focus on sports that do not require physical interaction; and school swimming pools will remain closed until further notice.

Showers and changing rooms will be inaccessible. On the days when students have PE lessons, they must come to school in their full PE uniform.

Vending machines, pantries and pre-packed food and beverages are allowed, on the condition that they follow necessary guidelines (only disposable containers, frequent sanitisation of machines and pantry items, maintaining two metres of distancing between the tables).

Disinfection of stationery

Students and teachers must bring their own exclusive stationary items, devices or gadgets (i.e. laptops, tablets, headphones, etc.). Student should not share their stationery. If pupils need a supply of stationery, it should be done by the teacher via proper disinfection.

Families should drop off and pick up children at and from the designated areas and at designated timings only, with no interaction inside the school. Family members and visitors should not have access to the rest of the school facility. Family members should be given a maximum time limit of ten minutes at the designated areas to pick up/drop off with no crowding, maintaining a two-metre distancing and wearing masks at all times.

Schools must operate their buses at half their seating capacity and have marks on the seats for seating guidance. Anyone boarding the bus should undergo temperature screening. Anyone with a temperature greater than or equal to 37.5 degrees Celsius should not be allowed on the bus.


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