Hong Kong's International Schools Reopen

After more than one term of distance learning, international schools start to reopen their campuses to students. We look at how it's gone so far, and how schools are keeping your child safe!
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

Hong Kong’s international schools started to welcome students back onto campus this week. After nearly four months of closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, campuses are reopening with strict health and safety measures in place.

International campuses are the first to reopen under the Education Bureau’s phased resumption of all schools because they have a different curriculum to local schools and an earlier summer break that starts in mid-June. They will resume primary and secondary classes in two or three phases from May 20.

All local schools will start by reopening for senior secondary students on May 27, followed by Secondary 1 to 2 and Primary 4 to 6 on June 8, and K3 to Primary 3 on June 15.

International schools to reopen so far include Shrewsbury International School (pictured above), Christian Alliance International School, Canadian International School of Hong Kong, Harrow International School Hong Kong, Li Po Chun United World College, and Nord Anglia International School.

The English Schools Foundation, Hong Kong's largest international group, will begin the phased return of the majority of its students to school on Monday, May 25 – with some secondary students coming back on Friday May 22. Students will return with a 50/50 split between ‘in school’ and ‘online, at home’ learning. The ESF says that is still finalising "lunch arrangements, temperature checks and other health and safety measures".

International schools are opening in phases over the next week. For example, at Shrewsbury International School Hong Kong, Years 4 – 6 were the first to return to campus on May 20.

Principal Ben Keeling said:

“The return of students in Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6 marks a significant threshold in the recent history of our school. We have been delighted to re-connect with students today and look to the return of many others next week.
“The journey of extended suspension has proven enormously challenging for parents, but we reflect positively upon the way in which our community has drawn together, despite the evident strain. We approach this new phase both united and continually committed to a vision of great aspiration.”
All staff and students must wear masks as they return to Shrewsbury International School this week

At Christian Alliance International School, students are returning for half days in three phases, beginning with Grades 4-6 and 9-12 on May 20, Grades 1-3 on May 25, and Prep on May 28. The school hopes to move from half day to full day classes in June, or "when it is safe to do so and on advice from the EDB".

In a letter to parents, head of school Richard Vanderpyl said: “The first period/block of the first day of school for students there will be a special programme that teachers will work through with the students. It is quite an event, even emotional for some, to return to school after such a long period of absence.

“The school counsellors will have material prepared for teachers to use. Teachers will also co-construct classroom rules and behaviour with the students that focus on maintaining good practices for hygiene, physical distancing.”

Li Po Chun United World College, which is a fully residential campus, is offering its first-year students the option of completing the term by taking residency on campus or continuing with online learning at home. At Canadian International School of Hong Kong, Grade 11 students returned on May 20 and Grades 9-10 return on May 21-22 to sit their Ontario Exams; classes for Grades 1-8 will resume between May 25 to June 1.

How are schools keeping your child safe?

At all schools, students are required to submit a health and travel declaration and have a daily temperature check; parents and helpers collecting their children must also have temperature checks taken before entering school grounds. Some schools such as CAIS have thermal cameras at the school gate to monitor temperature.

Desks are spaced one metre apart and must be forward-facing, and all staff and students must wear masks at all times, including on school buses. Students should not share stationery, there are hand sanitisers across campuses, and school premises are being regularly cleaned and disinfected. Water fountains are switched off as a possible source of contamination, and the number of students using the toilets at any one time is strictly regulated.

Timetables show that students are spending the majority of their school day within their home room or one classroom; PE lessons are focusing on non-contact sports; and school swimming pools and fitness rooms will remain closed. Students must maintain social distancing during break times; they must leave campus right after their last scheduled class of the day; and most schools are not serving food or drink to students in the canteen.

Read more: Tips for Back to School During Covid

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