Coronavirus: Dubai schools to determine size of classes

Education authorities have announced new safety protocols which the emirate's private schools must comply with


Dubai’s private schools will determine how classrooms are organised and the way in which classes are run when they reopen in September, as long as they comply with safety measures.

Schools will submit proposals to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the emirate’s private school regulator, for approval ahead of the 2020/2021 academic year. These plans will be drawn up according to the school’s population and teaching staff, the size of the school campus and must align with authority’s list of safety measures that aim to protect children and staff from contracting Covid-19.

While some schools may choose to hold classes in gymnasiums or garden areas, others may decide to continue online learning in the next academic year.

Keeping students, teachers and school staff safe when schools open again is the responsibility of all of us

Mohammed Darwish, Knowledge and Human Development Authority

Previously, it was suggested that schools may adopt a 70/30 model whereby 70 per cent of pupils work from classrooms while the remaining 30 per cent will continue e-learning at home. Pupils would then be rotated to ensure everyone had time in school and at home.

Some of the measures include mandatory use of face masks, thermal screening at entrances, physical distancing and protocols for suspected cases of coronavirus.

Schools will be allowed to set classroom sizes as long as they are able to keep seats placed 1.5 metres apart.

On Monday, Mohammed Darwish, chief executive of Permits and Compliance Sector at KHDA, said the measures aimed to ensure a “consistent and effective” system was in place across schools to protect pupils and staff.

“We understand that each school is different – the protocols give each school a starting point to think about what works best for their community and the context of their school,” he said.

Mr Darwish said the authority would work with school chiefs over the summer to ensure they had all the information and support they needed to safely reopen in September.

“Keeping students, teachers and school staff safe when schools open again is the responsibility of all of us, and it’s important we continue working together to make sure that the experience is a safe and happy one for everyone involved” he said.

Will all pupils have to wear masks?

Teachers and pupils older than six years old will have to wear face masks at all times. However, pupils and staff with medical conditions are exempt from wearing them if they can provide a medical certificate.

Masks can be taken off during eating or during high-intensity physical activities, such as during physical education classes.

Staff who are in direct contact with children have been encouraged to wear transparent masks or face shields so children can lip read.

School cleaners must wear gloves and masks.

Will schools continue online learning for pupils with medical conditions?

Pupils or staff deemed in the high-risk category will be offered alternatives to in-class study, including continuing e-learning.

Schools are required to provide the tools needed for pupils who must stay home due to their health or as part of mandatory quarantine to continue their education online.

It is unclear if parents will be able to opt their children out of going to school, should they prefer to continue e-learning. This will likely be decided by individual schools.

Will physical education classes continue?

Physical education classes will resume in September but swimming lessons are not permitted. Instead, PE lessons will focus on sports that do not require physical contact with others.

Teachers will practice physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres during the lesson and schools will set up visible markers on the floor to indicate appropriate spacing.

KHDA has encouraged schools to take up outdoor activities whenever possible in PE lessons.

Schools must ensure ventilation of the gym, either by opening windows and doors, or by using ventilation systems.

Pupils will not be allowed to participate in tournaments or events.

Will group activities be allowed?

Group activities, festivals, performances, sports tournaments will remain suspended until further notice.

School trips, celebrations, sports and camps for pupils are also not permitted for the time being.

Will pupils be allowed to use school buses?

School buses will run at 50 per cent capacity and will guide children to their seats using signs.

Pupils will undergo temperature checks before boarding the bus to school and anyone with a temperature over 37.5°C will not be allowed entry at the school.

Bus assistants who are older than 60 years, suffering from serious chronic diseases or who are immunocompromised will not be on duty.

All bus riders, with the exception of children younger than six years of age will need to wear masks.

Buses will be cleaned and seat belts, arm rests, handles, rails will be sanitised after each use.

Will children get lunch at school?

Schools can provide catering services based on pre-packaged food. Buffets or meal gatherings will not be allowed.

Water dispensers will also not be allowed at schools.

Parents have been encouraged to send their children to school with a packed lunch including drinks. Teachers will supervise children to ensure they do not share food.

Will prayer rooms, science labs and music rooms open in September?

Prayer rooms will remain closed until further announcements from the government.

Science laboratories, training kitchens, art studios, music rooms, will be opened but must follow strict safety guidelines.

How will schools tackle a suspected Covid-19 case?

Class teachers will be responsible for referring pupils who have Covid-19 symptoms – including a cough, body aches, fatigue, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhoea and nausea, and headache – to the school nurse for further screening.

If a child or staff member begin to show symptoms of Covid-19 while at school, they will be isolated instantly. The child’s parent or guardian will be notified immediately and the patient will be taken to hospital .

The pupil would not be allowed to return to school until a PCR result is obtained. If the result is negative but there remains a risk that it may be a Covid-19 case, the patient will be asked to quarantine for 14 days. If the result is negative and doctors say it is not a probable Covid-19 case, the child will be allowed to return to school provided there are no symptoms.

If a pupil tests positive for Covid-19, contact tracing will be carried out, including teachers and classmates of the pupils, which may mean anyone who spent more than 15 minutes in a proximity of two metres with the patient, from the day of the onset of symptoms, or the day of the positive PCR test, will need to quarantine for 14 days.

In case of Covid-19 emergency, the school must follow their guidelines for emergencies set by the qualified school nurse or doctor.

The person in charge of health and safety should ensure the child is accompanied by an adult wearing protective gear when taken home or to the hospital.

If staff, guests, or pupils are found to have Covid-19, they will not be allowed to return to school until they are granted a clearance certificate by the Dubai Health Authority.

Source: The National