Monday, September 20, 2021

Abu Dhabi: Back to School Policies Announced

Covid-19

This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

Private and Charter schools in Abu Dhabi have been issued with a raft of ‘comprehensive new policies’ which set out safe operating practices for back to school in September 2021.

The new rules cover in school sports and physical education, extra-curricular activities, play areas, canteens and food provision. In addition, the rules state that Covid-19 vaccinations will be mandatory for all students and staff over the age of 16, who want to enter school premises. Some official exemptions to this rule will be possible.

Children in Abu Dhabi will now be educated in ‘macrobubbles’ in order to “reduce the risk and magnitude of Covid-19 transmission among school groups and reduce shifts to distance learning” according to an official ADEK announcement. The size of these macrobubbles will be age dependant, with younger children now permitted to be in groups of 16, up from 10 in the last academic year.

The new policies also state that play areas will reopen and that physical education (including swimming) and extra-curricular activities will return, with precautionary measures in place. Schools will be required to complete a risk assessment and make adaptations to practices and facilities to prevent the spread of Covid-19. In all schools, recreational and sports equipment must be sanitised between groups. The renting of school sports facilities to outside parties remains suspended.

School canteens will be permitted to open and to “resume live cooking services”.

Chairman of ADEK, HE Sara Musallam had this to say of the new preventative measures,

“Building on our experience over the past year, and in close coordination with health authorities, educators and parents, we are confident the new academic year will get off to a great and safe start with these updated policies in place. Our priority is to ensure as many students get the chance to enjoy quality face-to-face learning, which is vital for their intellectual, physical and social-emotional development and wellbeing. We will constantly review the policies to ensure all possible measures are in place to keep our educators, students and communities safe”.

Students will require a dose of a UAE approved vaccine within 4 weeks of their 16th birthday. Commenting on vaccinations policy, ADEK Undersecretary HE Amer Al Hammadi described how vaccinations must be verified on the Al Hosn App.

“The policies mean all pupils aged 16 and above, as well as staff and all visitors, must be fully vaccinated with a UAE approved vaccine to access the school premises, whether within or outside school hours. The vaccinations must be verified on the ALHOSN app prior to returning to school at the start of the academic year”.

Students or staff who wish to apply for an exemption to vaccination must obtain an official letter from a Department of Health-Abu Dhabi authorised vaccination provider such as SEHA or Mubadala Health. This must also be reflected on the Al Hosn app.

Distance learning will remain an option for students who cannot return to school due to chronic illness or vaccination status. It will also still be an option for families whose preference is for online learning, if the model is offered by their school.

The news comes as the UAE today announced the approval of the Sinopharm vaccine for children over the age of 3. Previously, only the Pfizer vaccine was available to children aged 12 and over.   

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