Covid-19: Dubai schools set to safely welcome students in-person after winter break

Institutions are also amending timetables to align with the new UAE weekend



By Nandini Sircar

Published: Sun 2 Jan 2022, 3:54 PM

Last updated: Sun 2 Jan 2022, 4:31 PM

Schools in Dubai are ready to welcome students for face-to-face learning on Monday after the winter break, while keeping a close watch on pupils and their families affected by the pandemic and any potential close contacts.

Headteachers explain they also utilized the winter holidays to tweak timetables as they prepare for the new four-and-a-half week that comes into effect now.

Educational establishments have also been busy conducting workplace safety meetings with staff given the spike in coronavirus cases, while preparing designated members to minimise potential group contact among students.

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Simon Herbert, GIS CEO and Principal, said, "Preparations continue to go head at a pace before the new term. The leadership team has met to discuss health and safety protocols, and we are confident that the wellbeing and health of our community will be paramount, as ever at GIS. We look forward to the re-start of ECAs after an initial hiatus and also the possibility of trips at a later date. For now, teaching and learning is the focus, and our staff are well prepared to deliver high class programmes. We are keeping a close eye on numbers of staff and students absent because of the pandemic, and if a switch to online learning is necessary for any class, grade or section, we are well accustomed to adapting at speed."

"We look forward to the new working week, aligned with so many other countries in the world. Some of our longer-serving staff may find it harder to adjust on a Sunday or a Friday but they too are happy to adapt! Our weekly programmes and timetables have been adjusted mid-year and we have also allocated professional development time. The government has taken wellbeing into account, and this will be beneficial to all, we are sure," he adds.

Although other UAE education regulators have announced full distance learning for the first two weeks of term, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has stated that all students in Dubai private schools are expected to attend school for face-to-face learning unless there is a valid reason.

The KHDA have introduced additional restrictions for the first two weeks. This will include no co-curricular activities after school, no school trips, no assemblies or similar gatherings and cafeterias and the closure of canteens.

Matthew Tompkins, CEO/Principal, GEMS FirstPoint School - The Villa (FPS) avers, "Schools have had lots to prepare over the Winter Break to be ready to open in Term 2. At our school, we have re-written timetables for the new four-and-a-half day week, weather-proofed our site and ensured that all staff are tested within 48 hours of the start of the new term. All preparations have been made and precautions taken to ensure that schools are safe for students' return in January."

"Having Monday as the first day of the working week will take some adapting to. The vast majority of our teachers are from the UK, so this will be a return to a structure they are used to. The move to the four-and-a-half-day week will hopefully enhance wellbeing for students and staff and we welcome this groundbreaking step by the UAE Leaders."

While group activities remain cancelled, some schools continue to run as many assemblies and activities online as possible.

Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO-Principal, Credence High School, says, "We are more than excited to welcome back our children after their winter break. We are well prepared in terms of arrangement of the safety and security for its students and staff by following all the guidelines by the KHDA and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). Monday being the new Sunday will be a first for everyone in the school."

"The timetable and schedule will be the same except for Friday's as we have reduced the school the school hours and we will be operating till 11:50am as compared to the regular time which was till 2:10pm. The initial two weeks of the school will be without any group activities or assemblies as per the guidelines from KHDA."

Elmarie Venter, Chief Operations Officer, GEMS Education, says, "GEMS Education schools in Dubai are looking forward to welcoming back our students for the start of a new semester tomorrow. However, a small number will revert to distance learning with the full support of the KHDA, due to rising numbers of positive COVID test results and staff who are ‘close contacts’. We expect to return to full in-class learning in all our schools very shortly and will continue to strictly adhere to all national guidelines."


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