Pupils at UAE public schools to have staggered return to the classroom

Government-run schools will operate at 50 per cent capacity in the first week amid cautious return to the classroom

The UAE's public school system will have a staggered return to the classroom, regulators said.

Half the number of pupils will be present for in-person classes while everyone is expected back the week after.

The Emirates Schools Establishment, the regulator of the UAE's public schools, announced the rules before the start of the new academic year on Sunday, when tens of thousands of pupils are set to return to the classroom.

The rules are intended to curb the spread of Covid-19 while ensuring a safe path back to school.

Vaccination is mandatory for pupils above 16 years and for all employees, while schools must enforce a one-metre social distancing rule.

Schools that cannot maintain the rule will be allowed to stagger their operating times.

For example, pupils in grades one and two could go to school from 8am to 2.20pm while pupils in grades three and four could start their day at 9.30am and finish by 3.50pm.

All 564 public schools around the country have been disinfected and plans to transport pupils and maintain distancing have been made. The regulator urged principals, teachers and parents to ensure the safe return of children to schools.

Private schools, which most pupils in the UAE attend, are also preparing for a widespread return to in-person classes after the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Sunday, federal government spokeswoman Dr Farida Al Hosani outlined new rules governing regular testing for vaccinated and unvaccinated pupils in government schools and in private schools that follow the Ministry of Education curriculum.

Pupils will have a 30-day grace period to be inoculated against Covid-19 when schools reopen, before weekly PCR testing becomes mandatory for unvaccinated children over 12.

After the grace period, vaccinated pupils over 12 will be tested every month, as will schoolchildren between 3 and 12 who have not been inoculated.

Private school pupils in Dubai and Sharjah are not affected by the decision. Authorities in other emirates are yet to outline whether there are further exemptions there.

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Updated: August 25th 2021, 11:52 AM