Dr Abdulla Al Karam Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Teachers and administrative staff of Dubai schools will have to undergo PCR tests for COVID-19 prior to reopening, a top official said.

Answering residents questions as part of the #AskDXBOfficial initiative, an initiative of the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO) that gives the public a chance to ask questions to Dubai’s senior government officials, Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), on Thursday evening said, "Seven schools in Dubai have been selected as PCR testing centres for COVID-19 so that teaching and adaministrative staff can undergo tests and assure parents that it is safe to send their children to school."

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He was replying to specific questions about the reopening of schools for the new academic year.

Schools are implementing the precautionary measures properly, he said, adding, “We visited schools to ensure their compliance with health protocols and precautionary measures. We will continue to regularly visit schools and make sure they continue to implement these measures.”

Parents will have the choice to choose between school attendance and online classes in the first semester, he said.

School fees

Regarding school fees, he said: “The choice of distance learning does not impact the fees. But we understand that many schools are putting together different packages to support parents who have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. We encourage parents to have confidential discussions with the schools. Most of the schools that we talked to are very keen to help out as much as possible. These are the kind of conversations we would like to see between the schools and the parents themselves.” 

Dr Karam encouraged parents and students to focus on the positives of the school reopening while ensuring preventive measures are strictly followed.

Emphasising the importance of celebrating the human side of the reopening he said: “While we have the precautions in place and adhere to it, we have to understand it’s going to be an exciting time. We’re going to see people we haven’t seen in six months. We’re going to hear stories. We’re going to talk about it. Let’s focus on the positive side of going back and meeting friends and sharing a laugh.”

“Let us not forget the joy and the fun and the good feeling we get from seeing our friends. We look forward to the stories. It is such an important day for all of us. When you’re back to school, you’re back to life.”

Schools will be following specific health and safety guidelines to protect students and staff, Dr. Al Karam said. All schools have submitted detailed re-opening readiness plans that outline safety measures, including social distancing, temperature checks, PE lessons, break times and school start times.

“More than a month ago, the Dubai Government created a very clear protocol for schools and education. It is a very thorough protocol designed by specialists and it’s always been on the conservative side because we have over 300,000 kids going to school,” he said.

Shared responsibility

The KHDA director general further said keeping students safe is a shared responsibility between parents and schools. “It will take all of us to come together to make sure that we are adhering to those standards because our safety is important, and the safety of others is important. I hope they will all enjoy the experience of going back to school,” he said. KHDA urges parents to teach their children to follow good hygiene practices, behave responsibly and respectfully and work with teachers to ensure a safe environment for everyone."

Dr Al Karam confirmed that higher education institutions will also reopen depending on the schedules followed by them or their mother campuses. All universities will be required to follow the Protocols for Reopening of Higher Education Institutions. The KHDA team is currently evaluating the individual reopening plans of the institutions.

On the blended learning model to be followed by schools, Dr. Al Karam said: “Some parents and students want to continue distance learning. Distance learning as an option will stay with us, especially at the beginning, until things get better for everyone.”

Reopening of nurseries

On the reopening of nurseries, he said: “We are working with federal authorities to decide protocol requirements and the timing of the announcement. People want to go back to work and they want their kids to be in their nurseries. We have teachers who want to be in the nurseries and teach in the school. As we go back to work, school and universities, the reopening of nurseries is very important to us.”