It’s going to be a dull academic year with classes having desks placed meters apart, thermal cameras to screen students, no team games, no swimming, when schools restart in UAE. Yes, this would be the class of 2020-21. There are safety guidelines that Taleem’s Dubai British school and GEMS Dubai American Academy are planning to hold on to, while classes start on August 30th.
Entry to the school
All schools need to have dedicated entrance and exit for primary sections and secondary. Staff and pupils will be required to wear face masks while on the campus. Thermal cameras at the British school will be fitted later this month.
Between 7.30am and 8am, parents would be able to drop their children off in person via these dedicated entry points, said Amy Falhi, head of primary. Pupils in Year 1 and 2 will be dropped straight off to their classroom doors. For afternoon pick up, timings would be staggered for the primary section only, which has about 800 pupils.
The schedule would be split into two 20-minute slots, from 2.40pm to 3pm for the first pick up and 3.10pm to 3.30pm for the second. She said a schedule would be distributed to parents and organised alphabetically so that siblings could exit the building at the same time. At DAA, thermal cameras have already been installed at every entry and exit point.
Movement inside the campus
Children at the British school will no longer do lesson rotations and stay in one classroom to reduce traffic flow. An additional 10 classrooms were opened up to accommodate returning pupils and staff.
“Usually, each teacher has a classroom for their corresponding subject and pupils move from lesson to lesson but this creates a lot of movement,” said Maris Keijser, head of operations at the school. “To reduce the amount of contact points, pupils will now stay in one classroom for the whole day and the teacher will go to them”, he added.
Stickers that represent traffic flow have been placed throughout the campus to help staff and pupils move without crowding. Pupils will be given lockers that are several meters apart and they will not be allowed to gather in hallways or near lockers as part of the precautionary measures.
Sanitizers, masks and clinic
Both schools have more than 100 automatic hand sanitizer stations fitted across the campus. At DAA, the gym locker room has been turned into a Covid-19 isolation ward. The school hopes the room will be used only as a “last resort” if and when a staff member of pupil falls ill.
Nurses at the isolation ward will be present in full personal protective equipment (PPE). If a person starts experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, he or she will be kept in the room and leave the campus through an exit door in the ward. This is to eliminate any possible contact with others. Teachers will be telling the primary kids the nurses in PPE are “astronauts” so they do not “feel afraid” if they need to be checked by them.
Lesson capacity at the British school has been reduced from 26 pupils per class to 20 so that children can be seated 1.5 metres apart, as per the safety measures enforced by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.
Depending on class size, Mr Keijser said one teacher and one teaching assistant would move between two rooms during lesson time. “We wanted to keep the learning experience as normal as possible,” he said.
Pupils in the primary section at the British school will eat lunch in their classrooms to avoid large crowds gathering in one place. The canteen, which usually has capacity for 280 pupils was reduced to 100, and tables that once seated six people would now seat just two.
In terms of changes to lessons plans, most have stayed the same, however Physical Education (PE) lessons would focus on non-contact sports. There would also be no swimming lessons held in both schools.
Mandatory use of face masks, temperature checks and physical distancing are some of the measures school buses will have in place once classes resume across the UAE in a few weeks.
On Sunday, School Transport Services, one of the UAE’s largest school transport companies, said it would also ensure buses are sanitized before and after each journey.