Coronavirus: UAE studies reopening schools, universities, issues COVID-19 regulations

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The UAE put in place a plan to study the possibility of allowing students back into schools and universities for the academic year 2020/2021, with strict coronavirus precautionary measures in places, a Ministry of Education (MOE) official said on Monday.

Alanoud Abdulla al-Haj, spokeswoman for the UAE Ministry of Education said: “The Ministry developed an integrated plan to discuss the possibility of resuming studies in all public and private educational institutions, whether nurseries, schools or universities, at the beginning of the coming academic year under strict regulations and precautionary measures,” state news agency WAM reported.

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Al-Haj said that the ministry is studying the conditions of students suffering from medical conditions, their requirements and whether they are more risk-prone than others.

She stressed that the ministry’s plan was put in place in “anticipation and preparation” and to study the possibility of reopening educational institutions across the country. She added that any new developments will be announced during the upcoming time period based on health updates.

The Ministry of Education had announced on June 8 that the upcoming academic year will start on August 30, but it did not specify whether students would return to classrooms or continue the distance learning initiative.

As part of the UAE’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the Ministry of Education had shut down all public and private schools and higher education institutions across the country.

The spring vacation, initially scheduled to start on March 29, started March 8, and a pilot program for distance education was implemented during the last weeks of the vacation to ensure education continuity and to avoid any impact on school days. Then the distance learning program was extended to the end of the academic year.

The (MOE) issued a statement titled: “Regulations and requirements for the resumption of studies in universities and schools, academic year 2021/2020.”

It included coronavirus precautionary guidelines such as:

Commitment to monitor the temperature of all staff, teachers, students and others on a daily basis in all educational institutions.

Sterilization protocols for educational institutions including classrooms, laboratories and other facilities – ensuring frequent sterilization.

Limiting gatherings and suspending group activities such as school trips, celebrations, sports events and student camps.

Forbidding non-essential support and maintenance services from entering educational institutions during working hours and if students, teachers and support staff are present.

Maintaining physical distance guidelines as recommended by the relevant health authorities and reducing the head-count capacity in classrooms, whether in universities, schools or nurseries.

Organizing and managing the students’ working day including mealtimes to avoid high concentrations of students in one place.

Reducing bus capacities – which should not exceed 30 percent to maintain physical distancing protocols and measuring the temperature of each student before boarding the bus.

Ensuring the operation and organization of university housing according to specific precautionary procedures and requirements.

A health and safety official will be identified within each educational institution. This individual will be trained to implement precautionary measures, controls and requirements around COVID-19, in addition to training regular nursing staff.

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