Schools in Dubai will continue campus learning from the second semester that begins on January 3, but new Covid-19 safety measures will be in place.
Special staff have been designated to ensure contact between various groups of students is minimised. Students will spend most of their time in their homeroom classes to avoid unnecessary interaction, head teachers of Dubai schools have said.
The precaution has been implemented to curb the spread of Covid-19, which has been rising steadily over the last few days. The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention on Wednesday reported over 2,200 cases.
For the first two weeks, group classes, extracurricular activities and school trips will be suspended, Dubai’s education regulator Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) earlier announced.
Lisa Johnson, principal, American Academy for Girls, said: “We will prepare a schedule to allow students to be outdoors in specific areas that maintain bubble groups and social distancing. Specialists will travel to each group’s homeroom to ensure that students have minimal contact outside of their bubble groups.
"We already have a staggered pick-up and elementary will remain in their homeroom until their parents arrive; therefore, little will need to be modified from this angle.”
Though group activities have been cancelled, Johnson said the school will continue to run assemblies and activities online. One of the challenges has been enforcing social distancing guidelines with younger children, she added.
"However, the students respond very well to social distancing reminders and do a great job of keeping their masks on during normal activities. We will monitor our numbers and follow the DHA guidelines for class or grade level closure if we see increased numbers of positive cases. Furthermore, most families are arriving from travel early enough to conduct testing and quarantine if needed," Johnson said.
Risk assessment, health and safety, pedagogy, crisis management, contact tracing, student well-being and staff morale are all once again being discussed ahead of the commencement of the second semester.
Sangita Chima, Amity School Dubai principal, said: “We are fortunate to have the space and facilities to accommodate face-to-face learning for all students, while complying with DHA safety protocols. Thermal scanners, sanitising stations, floor markers, limited entry and exit points, classroom seating, staff training, isolation areas and designated Health and Safety Officers, are all in place.
"Frequently touched surfaces and all common areas, including bathrooms will be cleaned several times a day, and disinfection drives of the school and its facilities will continue throughout the term.”
Educational establishments underline maintaining a safe and healthy campus is their top priority at all costs.
They also reinforce transparency and open communication between the school staff and the parent community is imperative given the rapidly changing situation. Chima further said the bubble model "has played a large role in keeping track of student health this past year."
"Parents will be encouraged to check their child’s temperature every morning before students leave home," she said. "Temperature checks will then be conducted before students get on the school bus. Students who show any signs of symptoms, have a mild cold or cough and students with high temperatures will be sent home immediately. Students are welcome to return to school in the New Year once they have been assessed and are symptom-free. We are following all directives advised by DHA and KHDA to ensure that the school environment is secure for all.”
The Ministry of Education has also approved a set of safety protocols for students to return to in-person classes when they resume in the new year.
Simon Herbert, principal/CEO of GEMS International School - Al Khail, said: “All our staff will take a PCR test within 48 hours of school recommencing; all our staff are fully vaccinated. Our canteens and cafes will be closed at least for the first two weeks and all extra-curricular activities and trips are also on hold, as directed by KHDA.
"In addition to this, our usual rigorous cleaning and sanitising measures will be in place, along with constant education of our students on the benefits of mask wearing and hand washing. We have not yet heard guidelines from KHDA on PCR tests being mandatory for students.”
Principals reinforce student health will also be tracked throughout the school day.
Karim Murcia, principal/CEO of GEMS Al Barsha National School, said: “The health and safety of our students, staff members and parents is always our highest priority. We follow all regulatory guidance on the measures to be taken to keep our community safe and are ready to implement enhanced precautions and adjust our educational models as required by changing circumstances.
"Therefore, as a school, we will continue to adhere strictly to all regulatory guidance, including social distancing, correct wearing of masks and maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene to ensure that our students, staff, and parents stay safe and healthy throughout the exciting academic year ahead.”
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