While regulators in Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah have announced schools will remain open for in-school learning, some schools in these emirates are choosing to delay the school start date.
Victory Heights Primary School, Kent College Dubai and DESSC were the first to announce that they will not be physically open on Monday, but instead move to online learning. DESSC says it plans to open both of its schools on Wednesday, while VHPS will review its situation at the end of the first week. The majority of GEMS Education schools (believed to be up to 26 of its 28 schools) will also remain closed to in-school learning, at least until Wednesday.
Smart Vision School and Horizon English School have also now written to their parents confirming they will not open for in-school learning for the first week of term.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com has requested schools across the emirate contact us with their plans, and will update this story as we receive further information.
In a note to its parents, the principal of Kent College Dubai said:
"Over the past few days, we have received messages from a number of our staff and parents who are returning from travel and also those who have stayed in Dubai, to let us know that they have either tested positive with Covid-19, our are close contacts with someone who has tested positive. Due to the high number of cases, we are unable to cover all staff who are going to be absent. After careful review, we have reached the conclusion that for at least the first 5 days of this term, we will move to distance learning in all phases of the school. We will continue to review this situation.
"We realise this is not the way any of us would like to begin the new term, however with safety being a priority, we feel that families are better protected by closing the school not for 5 days, rather than open with reduced and compromised staffing. If we do not close now, we potentially may need to close for a longer period of time due to greater outbreaks in the coming weeks. We are also mindful that children under the age of 12 no longer need a negative PCR test to return to school, so containment of any positive cases is increasingly difficult."
According to Elmarie Venter, Chief Operations Officer at GEMS Education its schools in Dubai "are looking forward to welcoming back our students for the start of a new semester tomorrow. However, a number will revert to distance learning with the full support of the KHDA, due to rising numbers of positive COVID test results and staff who are ‘close contacts’. We expect to return to full in-class learning in all our schools very shortly and will continue to strictly adhere to all national guidelines."
Andy Gibbs, CEO / Principal of DESSC wrote to parents:
"I am writing to inform you that, regrettably, we will be reverting to on-line learning for the first two days of this term, i.e. tomorrow, Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th January.
"This decision has not been taken lightly. We are not simply waving a white flag at a period of mild disruption. Far from it. Until now we have been committed to re-opening both schools, even with a significantly depleted number of staff courtesy of positive Covid test results and/or close contact scenarios.
"As of this morning we now have nearly fifty members of staff who cannot report for work on site (the origins of infection spread evenly between those who stayed in the UAE and those who travelled overseas). This number is inevitably going to rise over the coming days. Logistically, and from a health and safety perspective, opening has now become untenable.
"We will now re-direct our efforts at looking at ways we can open, if only to certain year groups and/or key stages, as soon as possible. Beyond that, to getting all the pupils back in to School/College."
In Dubai the official, KHDA position is that "Regular face-to-face education in Dubai private schools will continue in the 2nd semester while collective classroom & extracurricular activities will be discontinued. Canteens will close for the first 2 weeks of the semester & gatherings & school trips will be suspended".
Mohammed Darwish, CEO of Permits and Compliance at Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) said:
"We’re grateful to our education community for their resilience and support, and we remain focused on the wellbeing of families and school staff during this time. Thorough health and safety protocols remain in place for all private schools in Dubai. We are working closely with each school to ensure that these protocols are followed and that teaching and learning continues."
Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah schools follow similar guidelines to Dubai, while Abu Dhabi schools will not return to in-school learning for two weeks.