Clearing the decks for the reopening of schools, the Ministry of Education has announced health protocols and the general framework for activities at schools to be followed when the new academic year (2020/21) commences on November 1.
H E Dr Madiha al Shibaniyah, Minister of Education, said on Thursday, “The ministry has prepared study plans and programmes to ensure the safety of administrative and teaching staff and those benefiting from the educational system.”
The health protocols include clear precautionary measures such as checking temperature, availability of sanitisers, wearing face masks and physical distancing in classrooms and school buses.
Talking about the framework for activities at schools, she said, “Students will come from home wearing a face mask, without which they will not board the bus. Duration of classes will be 45 minutes.”
Information related to COVID-19 infection or fever that a student may develop will be relayed to guardians immediately and the same is expected from parents if their children present symptoms at home.
Based on the number of students, the ministry has classified schools into three categories and allotted time schedules accordingly. For low-density schools, school hours will be for three hours with only 16 students per classroom.
Medium-density schools will have 50 per cent of their original class strength and conduct four-hour instruction days. At high-density schools, the attendance will be one-third of total student strength over five-hour instruction days.
Students belonging to medium- and high-density schools will continue their online classes via educational platforms and television channels during the week when they stay at home.
“School buses will transport 50 per cent of their capacity to achieve the required physical distancing between students. Students of grade one to four do not need wear masks, according to the World Health Organization. Bilingual schools, community schools with international curricula have started online education but from November 1, they can begin direct education. Expat schools will also reopen
on November 1,” said H E Dr Madiha.
She noted that 97 schools will operate at full capacity as these fall outside the scope of Internet coverage.
“We have agreed with local companies to provide computers and Internet packages at reasonable prices to students. The plan of the Ministry of Education is based on the idea that students will be present for a very short time inside the school. The relationship between parents and private schools is a contractual relationship, and the role of the ministry is to ensure the provision of high quality educational content. In the event that a guardian does not want his child to attend school, the ministry has set protocols and special conditions to facilitate such cases to study only remotely.”
The new curriculum will ensure that students have a 180-day academic year.
Indian schools scheduled to reopen
Bilingual schools, community schools and international curricula schools have had online education for three-four months now, but they can start direct education again on November 1, H E Dr Madiha, announced on Thursday.
In an online meeting held with parents of Indian School Muscat on Saturday, school authorities said they were awaiting detailed guidelines from the Ministry of Education following which they will announce when and how the school will reopen.
Closing schools in the event of an outbreak
In the event of an outbreak of COVID-19 infection in a school, it will be shut down according to protocols already approved by the Supreme Committee.
H E Dr Madiha al Shibaniyah said, “Physical attendance of students in the classroom is subject to revaluation in coordination with the Ministry of Health and the Supreme Committee. There are committees formed for this purpose at the level of schools, governorates’ educational directorates and the Ministry of Health to monitor the students’ conditions closely.
“The approved framework is flexible; if we need to shut down the schools, we will go for distance learning and through TV channels.”
The Ministry of Education will soon finalise the regulations for exempting students suffering from certain health conditions from attending school
Dr Saif bin Salem al Abri, director general of Disease Control at the Ministry of Health, said, “There will be an intensive educational campaign on the measures that must be taken in schools by all groups. There is a protocol related to the closing of a school if a COVID-19 case is detected, which has been approved by the Supreme Committee.
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