Dubai schools learn to adapt as Covid-19 surge prompts more to move online

School in Dubai delivers books and worksheets to pupils to help them make the transition

A facility member assists students to their classrooms at the Al-Mizhar American Academy after the government re-opens schools in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, in Dubai, UAE, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. (Photos by Shruti Jain - The National)
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More private schools in Dubai have closed their classrooms and moved lessons online amid a recent surge in Covid-19 cases.

Earlier this month some schools in the emirate halted in-person learning to safeguard the health of staff and pupils.

Meanwhile, public and private schools across Abu Dhabi extended distance learning for a further three weeks, starting from January 17.

Ambassador International Academy in Dubai switched to online learning on January 17, with pupils set to return to face-to-face lessons on January 31. James Lynch, the principal, said the school had delivered books and worksheets to pupils' homes.

Mr Lynch said the school had ensured its 700 pupils received constant support with technological issues, academics, and well-being.

It held virtual progress meetings and organised an online well-being and sports day, he said.

“Yes, we had a small number of pupils and staff affected,” Mr Lynch said.

“We have been very grateful for the support and guidance from the authorities throughout the pandemic and look forward to reopening on Sunday, January 31.”

Mr Lynch said the school had hosted 90 per cent of pupils at its premises for face-to-face lessons since September, while 10 per cent studied from home.

“It is extremely important that schools communicate with parents consistently when there is a Covid case and ensure that they follow the guidelines,” he said.

“Also, the majority of our teachers are now vaccinated and the ones who haven’t yet had the vaccine have a weekly Covid-19 test.”

DUBAI ,  UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , SEPTEMBER 11 – 2019 :- James Lynch , Principal at the Ambassador International Academy in Al Khail Gate , Al Quoz  in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Anam
James Lynch, principal at the Ambassador International Academy in Al Quoz in Dubai, said communication with parents is key to making a successful transition between in-person and online learning. Pawan Singh / The National

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Emirates continues to rise, with a record 3,966 cases confirmed on Thursday.

According to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, schools can move between in-person and online learning to keep pupils and staff safe.

“All private schools in Dubai continue to provide high-quality teaching and learning, whether online or face-to-face,” said Mohammed Darwish, chief executive of permits and compliance at KHDA.

Schools are required to report any suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases to the Dubai Health Authority, following which they must adhere to set protocols.

Dubai American Academy ­adopted distance learning on January 24 and pupils are expected to go back to classrooms on February 1.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , August 10 – 2020 :- Tammy Murphy , Superintendent/CEO speaking about the COVID 19 safety measures at the Dubai American Academy in Dubai. New Covid safety setup in different areas of the school such as hand sanitizer, safety message, social distancing stickers pasted on the floor, thermal cameras will be installed at the entrance of the school. School will open on 30th August. (Pawan Singh / The National) For News/Online/Instagram. Story by Sarwat Nasir
Tammy Murphy, chief executive at Dubai American Academy, said staff and pupils were well equipped to manage distance learning after a year of disruptions caused by the pandemic.  Pawan Singh / The National

Tammy Murphy, chief executive at the school, said their pupils and staff were now well-versed in digital learning and could easily build on their practice from last year.

Emirates International School Meadows has four classes in different year groups studying remotely while isolating.

Kathryn Dyche-Nichols, principal at the school, said the majority of her pupils, around 80 per cent, were in school for lessons.

Ms Dyche-Nichols said according to Dubai guidelines, if more than five per cent of the pupils having face-to-face classes have Covid-19, then the school needs to move to distance learning.

“Recently, because of the rise in cases in UAE, if we have had more than two cases in a class in a very short span of time, then I move that class to distance learning,” said Ms Dyche-Nichols.

For the youngest pupils aged three to five, even if a single child tests positive, the whole class moves to distance learning because they are extremely young and masks are not mandatory at that age.