Inside a Dubai school preparing for the return of pupils

Classrooms are being deep cleaned before schoolchildren begin the new academic year

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It is a busy time of the year for school officials in the UAE as they prepare to welcome back pupils for the start of a new academic year.

Classrooms, corridors and play areas are undergoing a deep clean, while stickers are being displayed to remind pupils to follow social distancing rules.

Teachers are once again being trained in Covid-19 protocols, while masks and hands sanitisers are bought in bulk.

We are offering lots of training to our teachers to make sure they understand the protocols and can work as a team
Simon Crane, headmaster of Brighton College Dubai

Simon Crane, headmaster at Brighton College Dubai, said he expected at least 95 per cent of the nearly 550 pupils at the school to be back in the classroom on Sunday.

A team of between five and 10 people conducted sanitisation drives at the school during the summer holidays.

“It’s a busy time as we get ready for the new academic year and schools are working really hard, round the clock, to ensure they are clean, sanitised and safe for young people,” Mr Crane said.

“We have a team of cleaners going from one classroom to another to get classes ready for the start of the year.

“We want to start the year with zero positive cases or close contacts within the school.”

Health inspections are carried out to ensure classrooms are ready for pupils and teachers to return.

Seventy teachers at the school are undergoing Covid-19 protocol training this week.

“We are offering lots of training to our teachers to make sure they understand the protocols and can work as a team,” Mr Crane said.

“We are also communicating a lot with parents so that they are fully informed with everything they need to know about coming back to school."

On Tuesday, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai's private school regulator, announced health and safety rules for the new academic year.

It also said all schools in the emirate would have to end distance learning on October 3.

The authority has updated safety measures in schools, such as reducing social distancing from 1.5 metres to one metre.

Pupils do not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to return to the classroom and regular testing is not mandatory.

Parents must submit a declaration form to schools to confirm their child is fit and healthy to return, and declare any recent international travel.

A bubble system is still in place at the school for pupils from Foundation Stage One to Year One.

In a bubble system, pupils learn and socialise in small groups, and are kept separate from others to reduce the chances of spreading Covid-19.

Mr Crane said increased sanitisation measures increased costs for schools.

“We have invested tens of thousands of dirhams, not only in sanitisation equipment but also additional staffing resources and human resources, additional teachers and cleaners," he said.

“The investment had been really significant for schools.”

David Jolly, the school's health and safety officer, said many families and pupils had been exhausted by the pandemic, which proved an additional challenge.

"People have Covid fatigue. They hope that when they go back to work and learning, the problem [the pandemic] would have been solved," he said.

Schools will have to work hard to ensure pupils followed all precautionary measures and did not let that fatigue affect their behaviour, he said.

Gulf Model School in Dubai has also been carrying out sanitisation drives over the past week.

Shiny Davison, academic director at the school, said the job was outsourced to a cleaning company.

"The school has been closed for two months and we thought in-house cleaning would not be enough," she said.

Desks and chairs are being spaced one-metre apart, instead of 1.5 metres, before pupils return to the classroom.

Officials at the school are also conducting online induction and orientation programmes for parents this week.

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Updated: August 25, 2021, 3:00 AM