Dubai: Dubai private schools on Tuesday said they are prepared to reopen safely in September under newly announced precautionary measures against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. It follows an update from Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) on its website that “schools and universities will be allowed to open and operate from the start of the 2020/21 academic year, provided they comply with specific health and safety protocols”.
These protocols were announced on Monday by the Ministry of Education, which said it is considering plans to resume studies across all educational institutions in the UAE for the coming academic year.
School leaders in Dubai told Gulf News on Tuesday the protocols provided the needed guidance on reopening in September (starting from August 30) following the closure since March.
Some schools have been preparing for a complete return to class.
“The Dubai British School group is very ready to welcome back students. We have been working on safety plans for the last few weeks, along with the Taaleem family of schools, which will ensure that all students are able to be on campus and participate safely in on-site schooling,” said Brendon Fulton, executive principal, Dubai British School Jumeriah Park.
The most difficult aspect of resuming school is social distancing within the classroom, he added.
“The safety measures have already been proactively planned for across all of the Taaleem schools, so this does not present a major challenge for us. The significant challenge has always been, and will always be, the social distancing requirements within classrooms.
“We have done modelling across all of our schools to pre-empt what this might look like and are now confident that we can abide by regulations without needing to adopt split-days or introduce blended schooling approaches. Our prerogative is to ensure that all students are able to be on campus, without compromising on their safety or the safety of our staff.”
The latest guidance from authorities means GEMS Education, the UAE’s largest private school group, will use a “blended approach” while re-opening, said Jodh Dhesi, deputy chief education officer, GEMS Education.
“Given recent announcements, it is inevitable that we will be operating a blended approach, partly in school and partly at home, maximising the amount of time that our students are in school while ensuring that everyone maintains social distancing. We are very well set up to deal with this, building on the success of our remote learning programme of the last few months, with which 95 per cent of our families have expressed themselves to be satisfied,” Dhesi added.
Also expecting to roll out a “blended model” is Credence High School, Al Khail.
“This will involve part-time study in school combined with some learning at home, but social distancing will still need to be observed. Class sizes will be significantly reduced, with most pupils spending about half their time in class and half learning at home. Time in school will increase further as soon as it is safe to do so,” said Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO - Principal at Credence High School, Al Khail.
Some schools will regulate the flow of students in ways that ensure enough separation between them, without having to resort to split-days.
Raza Khan, CEO of Al Najah Education (which operates Horizon English School and Horizon International School), said, “We have detailed plans in place to ensure every child can safely come to school, every day, come September. We will use a range of measures to ensure children stay safe and stick to social distancing guidelines. These include reconfiguring classrooms and introducing special movement protocols, such as ‘one way systems’ and peer group ‘safety bubbles’. We are also introducing new health and safety checks, phased pick-up and drop-off and creative new ways for the children to enjoy PE safely.”
The green-light to re-open schools has helped schools lay down concrete measures, said Mark Ford, Principal, The English College.
“We have been planning for different possible scenarios over the last few months. Now that we have clarity on the parameters… we can finalise our arrangements and be ready to welcome the students back to class in August, with all necessary and recommended health and safety precautions in place,” Ford added.