Pupils at Abu Dhabi schools will return to physical education lessons, sports, and extracurricular events in the new academic year.
Children's play areas, common areas and canteens will be reopened, Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) announced on Monday.
Pupils aged 16 and over, along with teachers and staff, will need to be vaccinated before entering school when the term starts on August 29.
The rules apply to private and charter schools pupils in Abu Dhabi when they return to school in September and are in accordance with guidelines laid down by the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee. They aim to ensure a safe return to in-person learning, and other guidelines include:
1) School canteens can now resume live cooking services under special arrangements.
2) A school macrobubble system remains to reduce risk of Covid-19 transmission.
3) Bubble sizes for younger pupils who do not practise physical distancing increased from 10 to 16 students per bubble.
4) All school staff and students aged 16 years and over, barring those with official exemptions, must be fully vaccinated to return to, and continue, face-to-face learning.
5) Extracurricular activities for a school’s own pupils will resume, providing schools complete a risk assessment and adhere to distancing and mask-wearing. The rental of school sports facilities to outside parties remains suspended.
6) Pupils set to turn 16 years old after schools reopen who wish to continue face-to-face learning in school must receive a first dose of a UAE-approved vaccine within four weeks of their birthday, which must be recorded on the Al Hosn smartphone app.
7) Distancing will be scaled down to one metre within classrooms and throughout school grounds, enabling increased classroom capacities to allow as many students as possible to get face-to-face contact with their teachers and peers.
8) Distance learning remains an option for children with chronic illnesses, for those aged 16 and over who are not vaccinated, and for those who wish to continue learning online if the model is offered by their school.
9) Arrangements will be made for pupils aged 16 and over who have not been vaccinated to sit critical exams in school, while students over 16 and staff who are new to the emirate will be given a grace period to get vaccinated.
“Our priority is to ensure as many students get the chance to enjoy quality face-to-face learning, which is vital for their intellectual, physical and social-emotional development and well-being,” said Sara Musallam, chairman of ADEK. “We will constantly review the policies to ensure all possible measures are in place to keep our educators, students and communities safe.”
Thousands of pupils in the UAE aged 12 and over have received the Sinopharm and Pfizer Covid vaccines.
Education leaders believe vaccinating pupils is the key to protecting pupils and parents, and allowing schools to return to normal.
“The policies mean all pupils aged 16 and above, as well as staff and all visitors, must be fully vaccinated with a UAE-approved vaccine to access the school premises, whether within or outside school hours. The vaccinations must be verified on the Al Hosn app before returning to school at the start of the academic year,” said Amer Al Hammadi, undersecretary of Adek.
Adek said it was working with the Department of Health — Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, Mubadala Health and Yas Mall to serve the community with a pop-up vaccination centre at the mall from August 3 to 7 and August 24 to 28. Pupils can also get a vaccine at any official centre in Abu Dhabi.
The UAE's health ministry approved the Sinopharm vaccine for use on children aged between 3 and 17 on Monday.
The move followed a trial involving 900 children in Abu Dhabi.
In May, authorities approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 and private schools in the UAE immunised thousands of pupils against Covid-19 in the first week.