Coronavirus: Dubai schools gear up to welcome pupils back on campus after summer break

The Knowledge and Development Authority has asked schools in the emirate to present their reopening plans

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Dubai's schools are preparing to welcome pupils as they are expected to return to classrooms after the summer holidays.

Schools are putting up signage to help maintain social distancing, and other precautionary checks to keep children and staff stay safe on the campus.

About 295,000 pupils will return to 209 private schools in Dubai in September, after schools closed in March to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The Knowledge and Development Authority (KHDA), the emirate's private school regulator, has asked schools in the emirate to submit their plans to accommodate pupils.

"While all the protocols will apply to all schools equally, they will have different impact on each school,” the KHDA said in a note to schools.

Some parents are waiting to see when a vaccine will be developed and there are some pupils who may have exceptional health reasons for not joining the class

“Some schools will have the space and the resources to welcome all pupils back at the same time, while others may not. We understand that a one-size-fits-all solution will not be appropriate in these circumstances."

Alan Williamson, chief executive officer at Taaleem, Dubai's second largest school operator, said the group’s schools would seek KHDA's permission to open their campuses for full-time in-person classes.

"Our class sizes are not huge, with 24 to 28 pupils in every class, and we can remove some furniture to ensure a two-metre distance between pupils," said Mr Williamson.

"We will comply with the guidance and we want to open fully for all our pupils.

"Our classrooms are big enough to ensure social distancing with the correct signage and procedures in place."

Mr Williamson said Taaleem will be happy to follow the guidelines set by each emirate as they expect 90 to 95 per cent of the pupils to return to school in August.

Those who are unable to do so because of health reasons, will continue studies online.

"Some parents are waiting to see when a vaccine will be developed and there are some pupils who may have exceptional health reasons for not joining the class,” he said.

“For those pupils we will continue to provide an online learning experience including tasks, recorded and planned lessons, and access to live classes."

Officials at Taaleem have studied global best practices in Hong Kong, Singapore, the Scandinavian countries and the United Kingdom.

"Parents want to get back to work and want to send their children to school. Children are missing the totality of the curriculum be it the science labs or the dance studios," he said.

Schools will have scanners at the entrances and have signage around the school, especially water coolers or sand pits, informing pupils if they come too close to one another.

Campuses will be more controlled and physical education classes would look different as contact sports cannot be played, said Mr Williamson.

Schools have been encouraged to create teaching and learning models that meet the needs of their specific communities.

Raza Khan, chief executive officer at Al Najah Education, which operates three schools in the emirates including Horizon International School, Dubai, said: "We have detailed plans in place to ensure every child can safely come to school, every day, come September."

"We are introducing new health and safety checks, phased pick-up and drop-off and creative new ways for the children to enjoy physical education safely."

The federal government on Monday said it was working on a nationwide plan to bring pupils back to class in September.

Members of the Education Business Group, which represents 100 private schools in the UAE, have announced their readiness to welcome pupils back to schools with all the necessary safety protocols.

"Over the past months, the schools have been conducting regular sanitisation measures and once schools reopen, all safety protocols will be maintained including social distancing. Teachers and staff members will also be trained to maintain the protocols," said a spokesman of the group.