Students at a school in Abu Dhabi before the pandemic. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: Students aged 12 years and older who are planning to attend school in person in the upcoming term must first present negative COVID-19 PCR tests.

The emirate’s education regulator, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek), said in a statement on Monday that the negative COVID-19 test results must be presented before attending face-to-face classes, and that the PCR tests will be available free of charge for school attendees. The COVID-19 testing is also mandatory for teachers and school staff, but students with special needs and those in full-time distance learning are exempt.

Free tests

According to the Adek, the PCR tests will be freely provided at designated Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) screening centres on a specific date for each school. The Adek has already communicated the testing schedule to private schools and charter schools in the emirate to ensure that all students, teachers and staff receive the tests on time. The schedule is also available on the Adek website.

In order to avail of the free test, a valid Emirates ID and dedicated school code must be presented at the designated Seha testing centre. Parents can contact the school to obtain the code, location, time and date for the COVID-19 testing.

Testing alternative

Students, teachers and staff who choose to take the PCR test at an alternative date or location may do so at a private or public health care facility at their own expense. However, they must undergo the screening from December 21 onwards in order to return to school for the new term on January 3.

The Adek has also said that periodic testing will continue for teachers and school staff. A schedule for these tests with location, date and timing details will soon be shared with schools.

Phased return

Abu Dhabi has been implementing a phased return of students to school since institutions closed in March as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. After a trimester of only distance learning across all schools, institutions were allowed to offer a mix of in-class learning and distance learning at the start of the term that began on August 30. Parents were also offered the option to continue distance learning, even as schools set up stringent precautionary measures for those attending school person. In addition, children in certain grade levels were instructed to continue learning from home.

In November, Adek, in coordination with the Abu Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee, announced that children of all grade levels in private schools would be allowed to return to their classrooms in the upcoming term. Earlier this month, authorities also allowed students with chronic conditions to attend school in person, as long as they presented a note of parental consent along with a physician’s note.