Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has issued 100-plus protocols for the re-opening of private schools across the emirate. These protocols follow a recent KHDA update on its website, khda.gov.ae, that schools will be allowed to re-open in September – the start of the new 2020/21academic year – if they use measures against the spread of COVID-19.
A. Entry, Pick up, and School Visit Procedures
1. Modes of thermal screening (individually or by installing the relevant technology) should be present at the entrance of the school. Children, who are taking the bus, should get scanned for their temperature before getting onto the bus. Anyone with a fever ≥37.50 C should not be allowed entry.
2. The class teacher is responsible to refer students with COVID-19 symptoms such as cough, body aches, fatigue, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, diarrheal and nausea, and headache, to the school nurse for further screening as per the guidelines.
3. Teachers and students older than 6 years of age are required to wear face masks at all times.
4. Staff will be discouraged from exiting the school during the day, but if they do for emergency purposes, they are requested not to return to the premises unless they have fully sanitized and changed their clothes upon return. They will also undergo thermal screening before entry.
5. Only one family member or a guardian is allowed to enter the school facility for drop off/pick up his/her child. People with compromised medical conditions, including the elderly, should not come for drop off and pick up.
6. The school should implement a staggered entry and exit procedure to eliminate overcrowding and to maintain 2 metres physical distancing in high traffic areas.
7. Families drop off and pick up at one designated areas and designated timings with no interaction inside the school. There should be no access to the rest of the school facility by family members and visitors. Family members should be given maximum time limit of 10 minutes in the designated area to pick up / drop off with no crowding, maintenance of a 2 metres distancing, and wearing of masks at all times.
8. Meetings are encouraged to take place online, unless there is a critical need for one to one meeting which should take place on an appointment by email basis and will need to be made and approved beforehand. 9. Maintenance work or deliveries should happen after the school’s opening hours. Proper precautionary measures should be applied especially for pick up or drop of items by designating a specific location and following a contactless process.
B. Screening & Contingency/ Emergency Plan
10.If a stable case of illness is detected amongst visitors or staff presenting COVID-19 symptoms such as fever (≥37.5˚C), cough, body ache or fatigue, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose, diarrheal and nausea, headache, or loss of sense of smell or taste, DHA hotline number 800342 should be contacted by the school’s designated H&S officer.
11. In cases of emergencies, such as having unstable cases amongst staff, students or visitors, the school should immediately contact 999 or 997.
12.A health and safety designated staff should be identified and assigned to handle any emergency situation, follow up and monitor the implementation of health and safety procedures, and conduct all necessary trainings for students and staff. This person is also responsible for the designated isolation room within the school premises.
13. If a child/teacher/staff begins to show symptoms of COVID-19 while at school, they must get isolated instantly, and the parent/ guardian of the child to be notified immediately and the patient should be referred to the hospital to take the necessary action. The patient should not return to school until the PCR result is obtained. If the result is negative and there is a clinical assessment of a probable COVID-19 case, the patient should complete a 14-day quarantine. If the result is negative and there is no clinical assessment for a probable case, the child can resume schooling so long as they are symptom-free.
14. If the result is positive, the traced contacts of the patient, including teachers along with the classmates of a student, or colleagues are all considered close contacts (Anyone who spent more than 15 minutes in a proximity of 2 metres with the positive case, from the day of symptoms onset, or the day of the positive PCR test). They should all commence the 14-day quarantine counted PCR from the day of the positive test, or from the day of the onset of symptoms if ascertained by the clinician.
15. In cases of COVID-19 emergency, the school should follow their endorsed guidelines for emergencies by the school’s qualified nurse/ doctor while wearing adequate personal protection equipment. Also, the health and safety in-charge should ensure that the child is accompanied by an adult wearing the full PPE when transported to home or to the hospital.
16. Measures for disinfection should be taken as per the guidelines, for the classroom and the school premises used by the child as traced, and the holding isolation room where the staff and students will wait for their transportation.
C. Monitoring Attendance and Contact Tracing
17. If staff, guests and/or students were confirmed positive according to a COVID-19 PCR test by an accredited facility, they are not to return unless they are granted a clearance certificate by DHA stating that they are discharged from isolation.
18. The school must maintain adequate records of its staff/guests/members/students, including names, telephone numbers and visit dates, to assist if contact tracing becomes necessary. And to maintain accurate work records of its staff for contact tracing purposes.
19. The school should abide by the contact tracing procedures, by providing DHA with all records needed to trace potential contacts of the confirmed COVID-19 cases.
20. Upon the onset of the academic year, the school should collect health and travel declaration forms from all students and staff. The template of the form can be developed by the school.
21. A policy of “staying at home if unwell” for students, teachers or school staff with symptoms should be enforced.
22. For all disinfection and sterilization services, the school can refer to Dubai Municipality’s website for the accredited companies through the link https://www.dm.gov.ae/health-safety-approved-list/, or by contacting Dubai Municipality’s command room by dialling 8004006.
23. Common areas in the school (i.e. toilets, pantry, waiting areas, etc.) should be cleaned and disinfected every hour or after every use. This also applies to frequently used areas/ surfaces such as door handles, dining tables, seat rests, elevator keys, etc.
24. Total sanitization of the school prior to the official opening is necessary.
25.Daily clean up and sterilization of all areas and surfaces of the school premises and effective sanitization post completion of each day to be conducted and cleaning process to be in-line with Dubai Municipality guidelines for schools
26. The DM cleaning and disinfecting guidelines (DM-PH&SD-GU94-CDCN2) (for both daily routine disinfection and for terminal disinfection) should be followed. Do not use cleaning/disinfecting products that carry a DANGER or a CORROSIVE label warning that may compromise the health of children and individuals with respiratory illnesses or medical conditions. Do not mix cleaners and disinfectants under any circumstances.
27. Frequently touched areas/surfaces should be disinfected after every use to ensure the highest efficacy of disinfectant action.
28. Clear guidelines should be set for security staff and those who are cleaning the school facility to ensure they follow the right measures such as wearing gloves and masks while cleaning.
29. Encourage strict hand washing regime and adequate hand washing breaks for children. Assist children with hand washing, especially younger children who cannot wash hands alone.
30. Ensure hand sanitizers are distributed across the school premises, away from younger children’s reach. The sanitizer should be approved by Dubai Municipality.
31. Anyone entering the premises should be checked for wearing mask and should be asked to use the hand sanitizer available at the entrance.
32. Staff and children’s bags and shoes are encouraged to be sprayed with sanitizer upon arrival to school.
33. In classes where taking off shoes is required, a shoe rack should be designated outside at the class entrance rather than taking them inside the classrooms.
34. Frequently used electronic devices should get disinfected after each use (i.e. Tablets, computers, etc.).
35. Special restricted safety precautionary measures, procedures, and supersession procedures to be maintained by school toward subcontractors in charge of clean up and hygiene service providers, with regular assessment on their compliance.
36. The school should encourage a paperless strategy and elevated use of technology in the educational provision to minimize contacts.
37. Place awareness/educational posters describing hand washing steps near sinks. Additional guiding hygiene communication material should be shared with parent prior to opening of school and should be placed across the premises (i.e. respiratory hygiene, distancing, etc.)
38. Measures should be taken to ensure that students with certain disabilities or learning difficulties receive adequate supervision and support when needed.
39. Where possible, all spaces should be well ventilated using natural ventilation (opening windows) or ventilation units
40. Ensure that cleaning services are punctual and thorough (i.e. bins should be emptied frequently, etc.)
41. Ensure that all staff and children:
- Frequently wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and dry thoroughly. Review the guidance on hand cleaning
- Clean their hands upon arrival at the setting, before and after eating, and after sneezing or coughing o Are encouraged not to touch their mouth, eyes and nose
42. Dubai Municipality standards for waste management, especially contaminated waste, should be followed.
43. All staff, visitors, and students over the age of 6 are mandated to wear masks at all times inside the school from entry. Non compliance will lead to denial of entry to the school facility.
44. Children over the age of 6 (all students in Grade 1 / Year 2 and above) should wear masks. Students and staff with medical conditions are exempted from wearing a mask with a medical certificate only. Masks can be taken off during eating or during high intensity physical activities.
45. Staff who is in direct contact with children is encouraged to wear transparent masks / face shields to enable lip reading, and facial expression.
46. School cleaners should wear gloves and masks while cleaning the facility.
47. Sufficient stocks of masks, gloves and sanitizers must be available and special designated bins to throw used items (as recommended by relevant governmental authorities).
48. Registration should be encouraged to happen online. If truly needed, parents/ guardians visits for registration should be based on an appointment system. It shouldn’t be allowed during drop-off, pick-up, and break time to avoid having the visits during children crowding time.
F. Set-up / Physical Distancing Arrangements
49. Ensure the 2 metres distancing measure is maintained in all common areas, service desks, etc. where different groups of students, staff and visitors are mixing.
50. Classroom area should support sufficient room for groups to maintain physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres per child in each classroom provided everyone wears a mask.
51. Ensure that toilets do not become crowded by limiting the number of students who use the toilet facilities at one time.
52. Use of outside space should be encouraged:
- for exercise and breaks
- for outdoor education, where possible, as this can limit transmission and more easily allow for distance between children and staff
- o outdoor equipment should not be used unless the setting is able to ensure that it is appropriately cleaned and sanitized between groups of children and young people using it, and that multiple groups do not use it simultaneously
53. Stagger the use of staff rooms and offices, their entry and exit, and the use of their pantry, to limit occupancy.
54. The school administration must dedicate an isolation room (separate from the nurse room), and set procedures to handle COVID-19 suspect/confirmed cases as well as the disinfection procedures as per DM guidelines.
55. Pantries can be opened for usage by individuals strictly for food and drink consumption maintaining a 2 metres physical distancing. No buffets or other forms of gatherings are allowed.
56. Lockers are permitted as long as physical distancing measures are not compromised, and in such a way that each locker is designated to a specific student (alternated and not shared).
57. Create visible markers on the floor to indicate appropriate spacing.
58. All coffee stations should follow 2 metres physical distancing guidelines and queuing is avoided, no water dispenser is allowed.
59. All elevators must have markings on the floor that indicate physical distancing and users must comply by standing on these markings.
60. Contactless payments to be encouraged, yet cash payments are allowed.
61. Showers and changing rooms are not permitted. On the days where students have PE lessons, they must come to school in their full PE uniform.
62. Vending machines, pantries and pre-packed food and beverages are allowed, in the condition that they follow necessary guidelines for the sector [only disposable containers, frequent sanitization of machines, and pantries items, maintaining 2 metres between the tables].
G. Educational Provision
63. Student ratios will vary depending on the size of the classroom. The school will have the liberty to decide on the number of students per class as long as a safe distance of at least 1.5 metres per child or person is maintained.
64. Provision for students in pre-primary/FS1, KG1/FS2 and KG2/Y1 will require “stable” groups of 10 or fewer children. “Stable” means the same 10 or fewer children are in the same group each day. This group of 10 children must be cared for in a space that cannot be accessed by children outside the stable group.
65. Keep cohorts together where possible and:
- Ensure that children and young people are in the same small learning groups at all times each day, and different groups are not mixed during the day, or on subsequent days
- Ensure that the same teacher(s) and other staff are assigned to each learning group and, as far as possible, these stay the same during the day and on subsequent days, recognizing for secondary settings there will be some subject specific rotation
- Class rotations are not permitted. For curriculums featuring class rotations, students should remain in a designated classroom, while teachers rotate instead
- Students should be designated a chair and table and no swapping among students is allowed
- At least one staff member holding a current certification in paediatric first aid and CPR needs to be available at all times
66. Students or staff with high risk conditions (specific illnesses or immune-compromised) should be offered alternative education means (i.e. online provision), until further notice.
67. The school has to ensure academic provision for all the students who are unable to attend their classes physically (due to health condition, isolated, quarantines, etc.)
H. Special Events
68. Cancel or postpone special events such as festivals, holiday events, special performances, and sports tournaments until further notice.
69. Group activities such as school trips, celebrations, sports and student camps should be suspended.
I. Shared Resources / Materials
70. Place awareness/educational posters explaining the rules for handling shared materials, while maintaining constant disinfection after every use.
71. Use of soft toys and toys with intricate parts or that is otherwise hard to clean should be avoided.
72. All equipment in classrooms such as toys, books, scissors, pens, pencils, crayons, arts and crafts materials and messy play resources as well as role-play and other materials should be sanitized after each and every single use where possible.
73. All classroom items should be immediately removed if sneezed on, coughed on or put in mouth. Keep a designated, clearly labelled, basket/ container for separating items that have been in children’s mouths, sneezed or coughed on, etc… Clean and sanitize prior to returning to children’s area.
74. Students and teachers must bring their own exclusive stationary items, devices or gadgets (i.e. laptops, tablets, headphones, etc.). Student should not share their stationery. If the children need a supply of stationery, it should be done by the teacher via proper disinfection.
75. Avoid using equipment that will require blowing (musical instruments, whistles, blow-pipes, etc) or encourage the parents to supply their child with their own equipment if possible.
76. Teachers should provide soft copies of teaching and review materials and should encourage paperless work in class or for homework. Digital hand-writing and typing should be accepted for relevant school work.
77. Unnecessary material, carpets, equipment and furniture should be removed from classrooms.
78. Extra-curricular activities are encouraged to be offered digitally.
79. Certain types of play sections/areas should be closed (i.e. dress up sections, indoor soft play areas, reading corners with soft furniture). Open areas should include furniture and equipment that is easy to clean.
80. Toys and other common resources should not be shared with other groups of students, unless they are washed and sanitized before being moved from one group to the other.
J. Food and Beverages
81. Food catering at this stage should not be restricted. The school can provide catering services provided it is based on pre-packaged food, while following Dubai Municipality guidelines related to catering services. Families are encouraged to supply food & beverages for their children along with their own plastic safe utensils. Staff must also bring in their own food and drink. Teachers should supervise to ensure that children do not share food. Face shields are encouraged during meal breaks when masks need to be temporarily removed.
82. If the school hosts a café, Dubai Municipality’s guidelines for cafes and restaurants should be followed especially regarding capacity restrictions, physical distancing, the use of disposable items, and hygiene across the venue and staff.
83. Buffets or other forms of meal gatherings are not allowed.
84. The school should implement staggered meal breaks that will ensure the safe minimum 1.5 metres distancing between students of the same class and 2 metres distancing between students of different classes.
85. Water dispensers are not allowed; the school may offer sanitized water bottles.
86. Pantries can be opened for usage by individuals strictly for food and drink consumption maintaining a 2 metres physical distancing.
K. Physical Education
87. To ensure that students remain active and keep healthy, schools will resume Physical Education (PE) lessons, with strict adherence to safety management measures.
88. During PE lessons, students and PE teachers will not be required to wear masks when engaged in strenuous physical activities such as running and workouts, as long as they adhere to physical distancing measures.
89. PE lessons should focus on sports that do not require physical interaction; and school swimming pools will remain closed until further notice.
90. All staff and trainers to practice physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres during the PE lesson. Create visible markers on the floor to indicate appropriate spacing.
91. For schools with gym facilities, and for running specific team sports, the relevant guidelines for gyms are to be adhered to and could be referred to through the Dubai Sports Council website
92. All health & safety guidelines/standards in all sports halls are in line with DM Health & Safety Guidelines [“DMHS”].
93. Students should maintain physical distancing while entering PE halls / stadiums.
94. Frequent sanitization of all equipment, and all areas in which PE lessons are offered [after every use and post closure of the school], through proper sanitizing schedule by temporarily closing PE halls.
95. Encourage outdoor activities whenever possible.
96. Ensure ventilation of the gym, either by opening windows and doors, or by using ventilation systems.
97. No tournaments or events will take place at this time.
98. Schools must use buses at half capacity and to place marks on chairs for seating guidance.
99. Anyone entering the bus should undergo temperature screening. Anyone with a temperature ≥37.50C should not be allowed on the bus.
100. Bus assistants who are older than 60 years, suffering from serious chronic diseases or who are immune-compromised should not be on duty.
101. All bus riders, with the exception of children younger than 6 years need to wear masks.
102. Bus hygiene should be maintained by following the appropriate sanitization and physical distancing standards. For example, seat belts, arm rests, handles, rails, etc. should be sanitized after each use, in accordance with RTA’s relevant guidelines for public transportation.
103. Daily record keeping should be maintained by capturing all bus riders throughout the daily transportation program/ trips. Absence should also be recorded.
104. For buses using swipe cards for registration, the cards and the swipe machine should get constantly disinfected. The process should be supervised by the bus attendant.
105. Adequate signage should be added inside the bus to guide children towards hygiene practices (i.e. respiratory hygiene, waste management, etc.).
106. Adequate waste management and disinfection practices should be followed especially that children might use back-seat pockets and bins.
107. Ensure proper ventilation in the vehicle at all times. Avoid recirculating air and encourage the use of windows whenever possible.
108. If a child begins to show symptoms of COVID-19 while taking the bus, the child is considered a probable COVID-19 case. The immediate measure is to ensure the child is seated at 2 metres away from the rest of the children. The bus attendant should immediately inform the health and safety in-charge in the school who should immediately communicate with school administration and parents/ guardians. If the trip was for drop off at home, the child should be dropped off first. If the trip was for drop off at the school, the child should be isolated and sent home. The child should not return to school until the PCR result is obtained. If the result is negative, the child should not return to school until they are symptom-free. If the result is positive, the traced contacts of the child, including staff, and other riders on the bus are considered close contacts. They should all commence the 14-day quarantine counted from the day of the positive PCR test, or form.
109. Ensure that sufficient and accessible training and communication channels are utilized to keep all staff, parents and children informed of new settings, practices and hygiene approaches for the start of the academic year.
110. Adequate training should be provided to the health and safety in-charge, and the attending nurse/ doctor to ensure proper handling of any potential cases.
N. Readiness Plans
111. All schools should fill up KHDA’s online readiness template according to the stated deadline before schools opening.
112. Schools must implement their approved Readiness Plan. These Readiness Plans ensure that there are appropriate procedures in place to safeguard the continuity of operations and the safety of everyone on the school premises in alignment with the endorsed guidelines.
113. Schools must designate a hygiene officer/ health and safety in-charge (or a crisis response team) to supervise the daily and continuous cleaning and be trained on the best practices and DM requirements.
114. Schools need to fully cooperate and comply with all measures and guidelines stated by the government regulators.
P. School premises (other than classrooms)
115. Prayer rooms should remain closed, unless the government is allowing prayer rooms to open across the different facilities in Dubai.
116. Science laboratories, training kitchens, art studios, music rooms, and others should implement the following guidelines:
- Where possible, all spaces should be well ventilated using natural ventilation (opening windows) or ventilation units
- The rooms should not be used in full capacity to ensure that users maintain at least 1.5 metres distance during the class session
- Frequently touched areas/surfaces and equipment should be disinfected after every use to ensure the highest efficacy of disinfectant action. Also, students should be encouraged to bring in their own equipment when possible
- Clear guidelines should be set for cleaning staff to ensure they follow the right measures such as wearing gloves and masks while cleaning
- Avoid using equipment that will require blowing (musical instruments, whistles, blow-pipes, etc) or encourage the parents to supply their child with their own equipment if possible
- Food prepared during food technology lessons should not be shared between students
117. Libraries should implement the following guidelines:
- Staggered entry to the library
- Adequate cleaning and disinfection between lessons
- Library lessons and reading corners must maintain the minimum 1.5 metres physical distancing between students in the same class and 2 metres otherwise
- The librarian and support staff should be wearing masks, gloves and use hand sanitizer (over gloves) after each interaction
- The library counter and equipment to be sanitized every hour
- The teacher supervises the process of book viewing and selection to minimize children’s touching of the books and the library equipment
- Fabric based books, or books made with material that is difficult to clean should be restricted
- All used books should be placed in a clearly labelled designated container for disinfection before re-use
- Schools are encouraged to laminate the books for ease of cleaning and disinfection.
- Library equipment and gadget should be disinfected after every use and children should not share the equipment
- Online search and borrowing of books should be encouraged. A specific book collection area to be designated to limit physical search of books in the library
- A books drop-off container should be designated and clearly labelled.
118. Physical distancing of 2 metres, constant disinfection and limited use of equipment should be adhered to in outdoor learning areas.