Schools Reopening: Challenges and advice
Local and international schools in Hong Kong are allowed to reopen their campuses starting at the end of May, following several months of closure. According to a recent announcement from the Education Bureau (EDB), students can finally return to campus in a gradual reopening of schools. In this Pacific Prime Hong Kong article, we’ll discuss details of schools reopening, the challenges involved, and offer some advice to help with the transition.
Current COVID-19 update regarding schools reopening
Local and international schools in Hong Kong follow different curriculums. International schools, for example, end their academic year around the middle of July. From May 20, 2020, international schools in Hong Kong are permitted to resume both primary and secondary classes in phases.
Since schools are required to reopen in two or three phrases, their plans for resuming classes must first be submitted to the EDB for approval. One main concern about reopening schools involves minimizing the risk of infection. All schools have been advised to offer half-day classes at first, which will help reduce the risk of spread and make it easier for schools to clean their premises.
As for local schools, all students in higher secondary levels (S3 to S5) can go back to school from May 27. Students in Secondary 1 to 2, as well as Primary 4 to 6, must wait until June 8 to return to on-campus classes. Similarly, on-campus classes for K3 to Primary 3 will resume on June 15. Children in kindergarten, however, will not be returning to class for the remainder of the academic year.
Kevin Yeung, Hong Kong’s secretary of education, said that the stakeholders are being given an “advance notice” to prepare for the reopening of schools. Even though May 27 is the date currently set for school resumption, the EDB will “continue to monitor the situation” and make any adjustments if necessary.
Hong Kong campuses have been closed since the end of January, with the Lunar New Year marking the start of distance learning programs for many. Hong Kong has not had any locally transmitted COVID-19 cases since April 19. In the last 16 days, the longest streak of zero reported cases was 10 days.
When will international schools resume?
All international schools in Hong Kong have the option to reopen their primary and secondary years in three phases. As previously mentioned, the EDB suggests three dates for reopening: May 20, May 27, and June 1. Standalone international schools for primary and secondary education can choose to resume in two phases, with May 20 and May 27 being the earliest options.
Early years will be the last to return to campus, with no specific dates until further notice. This decision is largely due to the increased risk of cross-infection due to age and “relatively weak ability in self-care”.
Moreover, international schools with their own canteens can apply to the EDB if they wish to open for full days. Local schools, on the other hand, can only reopen for half-day periods until further notice. International schools in Hong Kong have yet to announce their reopening dates, though announcements are expected to start from the end of next week.
Schools opening challenges: Safety first
Following a recent meeting with the Hong Kong Government, the Director of Communications and Strategy at the English Schools Foundation (ESF), Rob Shorthouse, mentioned some challenges involved with schools reopening.
Whether or not students could be back in school around the end of the month depends on the institute’s ability to design return-to-school plans that meet the Center for Health Protection’s health and safety criteria. However, schools have yet to receive the guideline that lists the health and safety criteria, and probably won’t until next week. Despite working hard to prepare schools so students can safely return to class, no plans can be finalized until the safety guidelines are received.
Best practices for the safe reopening of schools
Schools can only reopen once the new health and safety measures are ready, and they must adhere to the EDB’s guidelines on resumption under the COVID-19 virus. Some of these measures include:
All students and staff are required to wear a mask on campus, as well as on school buses. The government recently announced that it will provide two masks for every student in kindergarten or primary level.
Classroom seating structures will involve students sitting in single rows, with desks arranged in a “face to back” layout. Likewise, students will practice social distancing during any class activities and break times.
Shorter school days
Schools will resume five days a week with half-day sessions, though schools that are approved by the EDB can reopen for full days. Staggered timetables will prevent students from entering and leaving campus at the same time.
Advice for parents
The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on expats in Hong Kong. Times have been tough with uncertainty, stress, working from home with children, and many other changes. While people want to return to normalcy, it’s important to remember to go about it in a safe way. The following tips can help parents and their children return to school safely and cautiously.
Parents should always check their children’s temperature before they leave for school. Schools should also have temperature checks set up at the school gate for anyone entering the premises.
It’s crucial for students to understand the importance of personal hygiene and hand-washing. Parents can help students practice both before returning to school. What’s more, parents need to monitor their children for signs of stress or negative emotions as they return to school.
Now more than ever, schools, parents, and students need to follow the guidelines in place to help make the transition as safe and smooth as possible.
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When she’s not writing, she’s likely searching for a new restaurant or cafe to try, reading or doing yoga.
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