Dubai: For the first time since schools had closed in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all students in Dubai private schools will be returning for face-to-face classes on campus from Sunday onwards.
With a few exceptions, the distance learning option at private schools in Dubai has now been discontinued, with the schools only offering full-time in-person classes.
It follows an official announcement in August affirming the safety and preparedness of schools to return to complete onsite learning.
Nearly 75 per cent of students had already returned to school since the start of the latest academic year in September, up from 50 per cent in September 2020, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) said last week.
There are more than 210 private schools in Dubai teaching around 290,000 students. Hundreds of visits by KHDA, with an average of three visits per school, found the overwhelming majority of schools in compliance with all precautionary guidelines.
Also, a ‘KHDA Parents’ Survey’ earlier this year of almost 75,000 parents revealed that almost nine out of 10 parents felt their children were safe at school. In the return to full on-campus learning, parents and schools had been consulted before the decision was announced.
It also follows the success of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign, with more than 96 per cent of teaching staff and 70 per cent of children aged 12 to 17 in Dubai having been vaccinated, as of August.
On Saturday, Tammy Murphy, Superintendent of GEMS Dubai American Academy, Vice President - Education and Chair of Education Committee at GEMS Education, said: ”GEMS Education schools in Dubai are all very much looking forward to welcoming their students back into classrooms from tomorrow [October 3]. As per KHDA directives, all Dubai students who until now were still on distance or blended learning will be back in schools together with their teachers and peers from Sunday.”
Tammy added: “Only those students who have been granted special permission to continue learning from home for specific reasons set out by KHDA are exempt from returning to school. All schools have in place robust health and safety measures, and we continue to work closely with the relevant regulators and authorities to ensure students and staff are able to benefit from being in school in a safe, secure and happy environment.”
Changes at school
In August, the KHDA had released its ‘Protocols for Face-to-Face Learning at Dubai Private Schools’ ahead of the start of the new academic year 2021/22. It also has set up a webpage announcing the changes.
Here are the excerpts from the KHDA’s webpage for ‘Frequently Asked Questions – Schools’
Provided schools comply with health and safety protocols, the following activities may also resume:
-School trips, excursions and camps
-After-hours extra-curricular activities
-Performances, assemblies and other events at school or at an external venue
Can students continue with distance learning this academic year?
From the start of the academic year until September 30, parents will have the choice of distance learning or face-to-face learning for their children. From October 3, 2021, all teaching and learning at Dubai private schools will be face-to-face only. After this date, students who wish to continue with distance learning must provide a medical certificate issued by Dubai Health Authority. Class groups or grade/year levels may temporarily switch to distance learning if positive cases of COVID-19 are detected.
Does the 1.5-metre physical distancing still apply at schools?
From this academic year, one-metre distancing is recommended. Schools must take appropriate precautions to ensure that students and teachers stay physically distanced where possible.
Are face masks compulsory in the new academic year?
Yes. Students older than six years, staff and visitors to schools must continue to wear face masks.
GATHERINGS & EVENTS
What kind of events can resume at school?
Assemblies, performances, rehearsals and events can take place, in line with Dubai Health Authority guidelines.
Can schools organise events in external venues?
Yes, schools can organise events in external venues. All relevant health and safety protocols must be followed.
Will buses run at full capacity?
Yes, buses may run at fully capacity, provided they comply with health and safety protocols around sanitisation and ventilation, among others.
Is it compulsory for school staff and students older than 16 to have a Covid-19 vaccine?
Vaccination is not compulsory. Eligible school staff who do not wish to have the vaccine must submit a negative PCR test each week. Students are not obliged to submit negative PCR tests.