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Students arrive at Al Wahda Private School in Sharjah, which reopened on Sunday. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Sharjah: Yellow school buses emerging from the Sunday morning fog took students back to the private schools in Sharjah for the first time since movement restrictions were imposed in March to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

Many parents also dropped off their children to school amid unprecedented on-campus measures to curb the outbreak, such as temperature checks, wearing of face masks and social distancing. The reopening of Sharjah private schools was twice pushed back from the first day of the new academic year, August 30, due to the “health status” at the time in the emirate, officials had said.

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More than 100,000 students are returning to some 120 private schools in Sharjah this week. Schools are reopening under strict government health and safety measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, including coronavirus tests for students aged 12 and above as well as all teachers and support staff.

‘Happy to be back’

On Sunday, students who had opted for in-person classes for this term finally attended school. Izma Fatima, a grade 11 student at GEMS Our Own English High School, Sharjah, was visibly happy. She told Gulf News: “I’m definitely happy to be back. I can’t wait to see my teachers again. My friends haven’t joined me yet, but I hope they soon will.” She further said: “Distance learning since March had been amazing. We also had a bunch of virtual events with hundreds of students online — from fitness to topics related to the environment. It was fun, even alumni from 15 years ago joined us online.”

The Indian school’s principal, Asma Gilani, said parents have “shown confidence” in the school’s health and safety measures by sending their children, “even the little ones”, back to class during a pandemic. Around 150 pupils from KG, middle and senior school showed up on day one at the school. The school, which has both direct and online lessons, will have those three sections come in this week, followed by the remaining primary section, which has the bulk of students, next week. These groups will attend school on alternate weeks.

‘Accepting the situation’

“Our parents and students are coming out of the comfort of their house, moving on and accepting the current situation. When I used to enter virtual classes, students would tell me how they looked forward to this day when they would come back to school,” Gilani said.

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Students at Al Wahda Private School in Sharjah, which reopened on Sunday under strict social-distancing norms. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Priya Ramchandran, head of the school’s KG section, said children “seem at ease” in their classrooms, even those in KG1 for whom it was their very first day in school ever. “Being back is such a relief for us, I didn’t expect it would feel so good. Parents initially had doubts if children could actually come back in times like these, but they have seen how we now have a lot more to offer than what they had expected. All preparations are in place,” Ramchandran said.

Many other schools are also reopening in phases, according to the grades. A majority of students seem to have opted for full distance learning, based on feedback from schools so far.