Hong Kong: What to Expect When Schools Reopen

Hong Kong will reopen its schools with a phased approach that focuses on new health and safety guidelines, and ESF schools will reopen with a 50/50 split between ‘in school’ and 'at home’ learning.
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

Going back to school will look very different when campuses in Hong Kong reopen this month. Students must sit at least a metre apart in classrooms, wear masks for all lessons including singing, and enter and leave campuses in batches. PE lessons will be restricted to ball games that don’t require students to be in close contact, such as table tennis and tennis. And there will be staggered break times to avoid overcrowding in the playground.

The Education Bureau (EDB) has announced its guidelines for the safe reopening of local and international schools – and this is what we can expect to see when schools in Hong Kong start to reopen their campuses from as early as next Friday.

Students will start returning to classrooms across Hong Kong at the end of May after a four-month closure of all schools. International schools can start to reopen from May 20.

Today, the English Schools Foundation announced that it 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". 

In local schools, senior secondary students will be the first to return to school from May 27, followed by junior secondary, primary school and kindergarten graduating class students in June.

How will Hong Kong schools reopen?

Based on the guidelines from the EDB, we can expect to see all staff and students wearing masks at all times and daily temperature checks at the school gate. There will be staggered start and end times to reduce the number of students entering and leaving the campus at any one time. And students will be kept in small groups when using shared facilities, such as libraries, music rooms and computer rooms.

In classrooms, students will sit in a single row with a ‘face-to-back’” setting and facing one direction, and lessons should avoid group activities. Break times should be staggered to avoid overcrowding in play areas, and schools are encouraged to open for half days only to avoid students staying on campus for lunch.

For PE lessons, students can take part in individual or group activities without contact, such as jogging, table tennis and tennis, and they must wear masks “as far as possible if exercise is not too rigorous”. As social distancing measures are lifted, schools can resume swimming and water sports and sports such as volleyball and basketball.

In music, students must wear masks for all lessons including singing; they should avoid playing wind musical instruments such as the flute and clarinet.

Other guidelines include:

  • Schools should close all drinking fountains on campus
  • Learning materials such as computers, iPads, books, toys, and shared resources should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a day
  • Drivers, nannies and students should wear masks on school buses, and have their temperature checked before boarding

ESF schools to reopen from May 22

The English Schools Foundation (ESF), which is the largest international school group in Hong Kong, has announced plans to reopen its primary and secondary campuses from Monday, May 25. There will be a phased return of the majority of students based on a concept it calls, ‘100 percent of our students learning, 50 percent in school.’

In a Facebook post to parent, the ESF said: "As this name suggests, in order to ensure that we have the space in our schools to maintain social distancing, we will only have half of the students attend on any given day.

"On the days that the students are not in school, they will continue to learn using the online, at home systems that have been put in place to such great effect these past few months."

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