Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi private schools undergo mid-term inspections as pupils return to classrooms

Extracurricular activities will remain suspended and pupils and staff must be frequently tested for Covid-19 as part of safety measures

Powered by automated translation

Regular inspections will be carried out at private schools and nurseries in Abu Dhabi with fines of up to a quarter of a million dirhams for non-compliance with Covid-19 safety measures.

Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, the emirate’s private school regulator, said frequent inspections would be conducted throughout the remainder of the academic year.

Most private schools will readmit pupils to classrooms on Sunday, for the first time in months.

Inspections were last carried out in August, when Adek allowed 220 compliant schools to reopen. The Ministry of Education delayed the return to classrooms until February 14 but most schools were on half-term break, meaning the majority will reopen this week.

Schools and nurseries found flouting safety measures face penalties of between Dh10,000 to Dh250,000 in fines, depending on the offence.

We have to put the safety of our community first and ongoing inspections are vital to ensure parents have confidence in the safety protocols

“We have to put the safety of our community first and ongoing inspections are vital to ensure parents have confidence in the safety protocols of our schools and nurseries,” said Amer Al Hammadi, undersecretary of Adek.

As of February 21, Adek conducted inspections at 221 schools reopening for in-classroom education and 119 nurseries.

The inspections tracked adherence to 62 criteria, including: compliance with social distancing; an on-premise Covid-19 task force; regular cleaning and disinfection programmes; regular Covid-19 testing of staff and pupils aged 12 years and above; regulated classroom numbers, PPE equipment standards, and daily routine checks conducted by a nominated school compliance officer to ensure safety rules are followed.

Adek said repeated breaches could lead to schools being forced to return to distance learning. In such cases, parents would be permitted to remove their children from the school and receive refunds of their fees.

Non-compliant nurseries will be immediately moved to distance learning for a week, or fined.

“Our sincere hope is that none of these penalties will have to be exacted,” said Mr Al Hammadi. “We have confidence in our school and nursery communities and their desire to adhere to the regulations for the safety of all.”

Meanwhile, a ban on extracurricular activities on school premises will remain in force. Light athletic activities will be allowed only outdoors, during normal scheduled physical education classes and with social distancing rules in place.

Parents can enter school premises if they present a negative PCR test result, received within 96 hours, or show the “emergency use” status on their Al Hosn App, which indicates they are fully vaccinated.

School tours for new and prospective parents may also resume.

Class sizes have been increased to a maximum of 30 pupils with 1.5-metre social distancing and compulsory face masks for those aged six and above.

For kindergarten, class size is capped at 25 pupils with 1.5m social distancing. Bubbles for younger children remain at a maximum of 10 pupils, not including staff.

At the weekend, the federal public prosecution reminded schools that principals, as with other workplace managers, were required by law to alert health authorities to any suspected coronavirus cases.

Each person suspected of having the virus must see a doctor to obtain a medical report and immediately notify the Ministry of Health and Prevention or a local health department if he or she tests positive.

Health officials said this would enable patients to receive quick medical care and stop the spread of infection.

The infected person should be isolated with anyone who came into contact with them, in accordance with Article 12 of the federal law 14 on communicable diseases.

The patient can return to work or school after being cleared by the ministry or local health authority.

Last week, the ministry said people with the coronavirus who failed to report their infection to authorities would face a prison sentence and fine of between Dh10,000 and Dh50,000.