Hong Kong Schools To Reopen End of May

Students can return to campus from May 20 after the Education Bureau announced a phased reopening of local and international schools.
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

After being closed for four months, schools in Hong Kong can open their campuses from the end of May. The Education Bureau (EDB) has announced that students can return to campus in a phased reopening of local and international schools. 

International schools, which end their 2019-20 academic year in mid-June and follow different curricula, can resume primary and secondary classes in two or three phases from May 20. Schools must first submit their class resumption plans to the Education Bureau for approval.

The Education Bureau said:

"To minimise the risk of infection and facilitate schools' cleaning of their premises, all schools, in principle, should only provide half-day classes."

In local schools, all higher secondary school students (S3 to S5) can return to school from Wednesday, May 27. On-campus classes for Secondary 1 to 2 and Primary 4 to 6 will resume from June 8, and for K3 to Primary 3 from June 15. Classes will not resume for children in kindergarten for the rest of the academic year.

Hong Kong's secretary of education, Kevin Yeung, said:

"We are giving an advance notice of about three weeks for all stakeholders to get prepared for the school resumption. The first day is May 27, so during this period we will of course continue to monitor the situation, and if really necessary, we could adjust the resumption plan. But at this stage, we are still pretty confident that we should be able to resume classes on May 27."

Campuses in Hong Kong have been closed since the Lunar New Year at the end of January, and schools have switched to distance learning programmes. There have been no locally transmitted cases in Hong Kong since April 19, and there have been 10 days without any reported cases over the past 16 days.


Chief Executive Carrie Lam (centre) announces plans for reopening of schools at a press conference yesterday 

When will international schools reopen?

All-through international schools have the flexibility to reopen their primary and secondary years in three phases. As suggested by the EDB, this could be on May 20, May 27 and June 1.

Standalone primary and secondary international schools can choose to reopen in two phases, possibly on May 20 and May 27.

The EDB has said that early years will not return to campuses until further notice "in view of a higher risk of cross infection due to the very young age of the students and their relatively weak ability in self-care".

While local schools will reopen for half-day sessions until further notice to avoid students mixing at lunch breaks, international schools can apply to the EDB to reopen for full days if they have their own canteen. 

Like all international schools, The English Schools Foundation (ESF), Hong Kong's largest international group, is yet to announce when it will reopen its campuses. We would expect schools to start announcing dates from the end of next week, after they receive guidelines from the Centre for Health Protection and the approval needed to reopen from the EDB.

In a letter to parents, ESF's director of communications and strategy Rob Shorthouse, said:

"When we met with the Government last week, they told us that international schools, including ESF, may have a degree of flexibility in regards to how – and when – we bring our students back. We believe that could mean us having, at least, our senior students back in school on or around May 20.

"Doing this would depend on our ability to draw up return to school plans that meet health and safety criteria that will be set out in guidelines that are to be issued to us by the Centre for Health Protection.

"We have not yet received those guidelines – and we do not expect to receive them until next week. While we have been working hard to get our schools ready to safely receive students, we cannot finalise our plans until we get those all-important safety guidelines. That means that we cannot yet give you firm dates as to when we might be able to get your children back into school."



How will schools in Hong Kong reopen?

Schools will only be allowed to reopen once new health and safety measures are in place, and they must follow the EDB's guidelines on class resumption under Covid-19.

Deep cleaning
School campuses must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Masks 
All staff and students will have to wear a mask on school buses and while on campus; this week the government announced that it will distribute free reusable masks to every Hong Kong resident who registers online, and give two masks to every primary and kindergarten student. 

Social distancing
Students should sit in single rows with a 'face to back' layout of desks in the classroom, and they should be well spaced during break times and all class activities.

Shorter school day
Schools will reopen for half day sessions, five days a week, although schools can apply to the EDB to reopen for full days. Timetables will be staggered to ensure that students do not all enter and leave school at the same time.

Temperature checks
Schools should ask parents to check their child's temperature before going to school, and there should be temperature checks at the school gate for anyone entering the campus.

Student wellbeing
Schools must educate students on the importance of hand-washing and personal hygiene. Counselling should be offered to all students who may be "vulnerable to negative emotions and stress during this period".

Reporting confirmed cases of Covid-19
Schools must inform the Education Bureau if any staff or student is confirmed to have Covid-19 or has been in close contact with an infected person. 

Read more: How will schools reopen post Covid closures?

This article will be updated with further updates from international schools in Hong Kong. 

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