Dubai: Over the past few weeks, education authorities in the UAE have announced plans for the upcoming school semester, where students are expected to return school campuses. However, they have also put in place several precautionary measures against COVID-19, to ensure public health and safety.
Here is all you need to know about the announcements made so far.
Abu Dhabi schools
Abu Dhabi schools have been given the choice to opt from five reopening models to balance between in-class learning and online learning:
1. Full day face-to-face
2. Half-day face-to-face
3. Alternating day
4. Alternating week
5. A blended hybrid model
Earlier, on July 21, 2020, Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge [Adek] announced that in-class learning would resume at schools in Abu Dhabi from August 30, and on August 16, it released rules and regulations for the safe reopening of schools.
According to the guidelines, announced on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Committee, and Adek, full online learning will also continue to be available for the entirety of the first term, subject to prior coordination with the school.
While schools have been allowed to offer models of schooling with full or partial distance learning to students, the following rules and precautions will strictly apply at schools that opt for in-class learning models.
COVID-19 testing for all
There will be mandatory COVID-19 testing for all staff including teachers, and students above the age of 12. Daily temperature checks will be done for all staff and students.
UPDATE: On August 25, Gulf News reported on a new Abu Dhabi regulation that requires parents to present negative COVID-19 test results when visiting school premises.
“Parents will not be allowed inside the school premises, unless they are supporting a Student of Determination. Exceptions can be made to allow one parent to accompany a KG or early Cycle 1 student, if needed. However, the parent will need to have a negative COVID-19 test result with 72 hours validity,” the regulation states.
Strict social distancing rules should be in place, 1.5 metres for all while on the school campus, while the number of students in each class would be limited to 15. Alternate break times should also be planned to encourage physical distancing and avoid crowding.
All teachers should wear masks at all times and all students above the age of six must wear masks while at school.
Adek field visits
All 205 private schools will have to maintain strict compliance policies, including preventative and sterilisation measures. Adek will accordingly conduct field visits prior to the start of the term, and during the term as well.
Hotline for parents
A dedicated hotline has also been set up at 800ADEK for parents and school staff who want to report any compliance concerns.
Dubai students, too, can expect a return to school campuses at the start of the next semester. Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), however, has allowed schools to offer 100 per cent online learning to parents who request for it, as a ‘temporary measure’.
As reported by Gulf News, in a recent circular sent to school principals, KHDA said, “While face-to-face learning remains the preferred education model, we understand that different parents have different views, especially in the first phases of re-opening. As a temporary measure, schools can and should provide 100 per cent distance learning provision in the new academic year to parents who request it. This is intended to help ease parents and children into an eventual return to face-to-face learning.”
For schools that are going to conduct classes on campus, KHDA issued ‘Protocols for the Reopening of Private Schools in Dubai’ las month. The protocols include the following guidelines:
• 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 RT-PCR (Reverse transcription 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.
KHDA released a total of 118 guidelines, which can be read here.
Parents of students in schools in Sharjah’s private can continue with 100 per cent distance learning for their children in the new term, if they wish to do so.
Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA) announced on its Instagram page: “If parents are reluctant to send kids to schools in the first phase of re-opening, then they can choose the Distance learning option.”
UPDATE: On August 25, Sharjah Private Education Authority [SPEA] announced that private schools in Sharjah will adopt distance learning for the first two weeks of the new academic year, which begins on August 30.
Mandatory negative COVID-19 result
However, all students, teachers and staff of private schools in Sharjah must test negative for COVID-19 before physically joining school in the new term, according to SPEA guidelines.
The guidelines add: “School principals should be aware of the COVID-19 test schedule, which would impact their operational reopening plan. This might result in teachers, staff and students joining their schools in batches”.
Travel declaration and Al Hosn app
Students will also be required to provide travel declaration if they have travelled 14 days before joining school.
Parents have to also download the Al Hosn app to ensure contact-tracing can be conducted.
What if there is a potential COVID-19 case?
If a student or staff member is suspected of being a COVID-19 positive case, he/she will be immediately moved to the school isolation room.
Only the school medical staff are permitted to enter the isolation room wearing full PPE kit.
The student’s parent/s will be contacted immediately by the school’s clinic medical staff and the concerned authorities will also be notified through official channels.
The school will strictly adhere to the health authority requirements for managing and transferring any suspected cases of COVID-19.
All areas which may have been accessed by the suspected case will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised/disinfected following any suspected cases. These areas will be closed immediately until the cleaning is completed.
Tracing will be conducted to identify those who may have come into contact with the suspected case. Health authority requirements will be strictly adhered to, this may include additional testing and isolation of persons who may have come into contact with the suspected case.
Each school will have a detailed medical policy and procedure in place, which will detail the emergency procedures undertaken to handle such situations.