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COVID-19: Hong Kong is reopening their schools. This is what it looks like!


Finally, the day arrived, and students and staff returned to some of Hong Kong’s international schools on Wednesday May 20 after almost four months of homeschooling because of the Covid-19 outbreak. The safety and wellbeing of students, staff and families remains top priority as schools reopen. Under a phased class-resumption plan, international schools were the first to welcome students back because of their different curriculum and early summer break.

At lease 53 international and private schools, were granted permission by the Education Bureau (EDB) to resume classes in stages from Wednesday or Friday this week, while students at another 19 return to class next Monday, according to the government.

It was suggested by education officials that schools only conduct half-day classes so to reduce social contact and avoid students having lunch together, but 31 schools have been allowed to hold full-day lessons after implementing staggered lunch breaks.

Since the closure of the schools in February, it has been a very unsettling time for everyone and now students and educators return to a ‘new normal’.  Everything about going back to school after the Covid shutdown is bound to be strange. From wearing masks, daily temperature checks to social distancing rules that make socializing impossible, students’ new school realities fall far short of normal.

 

Here’s how some schools in Hong Kong are protecting their students as they return to school

Kellett School, the British International School in Hong Kong resumed classes on Wednesday, May 20 after almost four months of home learning. They have implemented a phased return as directed by the Hong Kong Education Bureau (EDB) starting with older students. On entry to the school there will be temperature checks via a thermal imaging camera. All students must provide travel and health declarations, including information about contact with someone in quarantine.

Students and staff must wear masks in public areas around the school, lessons and on buses. Social distancing measures include new seating arrangements with students sitting at least one metre apart, where this is not possible, Perspex screen dividers have been installed between students. During meal times, students do not wear masks, so this has meant reorganising their dining hall so that tables are 2m apart, with each diner separated by a perspex screen.  Kellett have put a strong emphasis on Wellbeing issues and this is very high in their agenda, includingreadjustment back to school, community concerns around the health risk, parental concern around academic progress, possible bereavement or parental financial challenges.

 

Shrewsbury International School, was excited to warmly welcome their families safely back to their inspiring learning environment on Wednesday. During the period of extended suspension, the school campus has been regularly cleaned and disinfected. This cleaning routine will step up further as the school population grows: during the afternoon of each school day, all learning spaces will be disinfected and we will implement a continuous programme for the cleaning of multi-touch surfaces.

Assistant Principal Ms Emma Sutton says:

“All students' progress will have been affected by suspension and some more than others. Although we should acknowledge that children learn at their own pace, which means in this respect, at least, this academic year is no different to any other”.

There will undoubtedly be areas where individual students will display gaps in learning; however, addressing this is what our teachers do best. They are well-equipped to assess the prior experiences of the children and identify their next steps for learning.  Teachers will continue to adopt a range of strategies to assess progress effectively and efficiently as they have been doing throughout this school suspension period through their online feedback and marking. They will then amend the programme of study according to the children they are teaching. Furthermore, Primary learning within the British National Curriculum can be malleable year-to-year, as objectives are revisited and developed upon further. 

Despite having maintained the connection between school and home through our online provision, our Academic Team will be focusing on reintroducing our students to the inspirational in-person social interactions that they have been missing. Students will be re-connecting with their peers and staff members and restoring the sense of safety and vibrancy that our classrooms have been missing over the last few months. 

All members of our community will have been affected in some way by school suspension and will be excited by the sense of routine and rigour the classroom provides. This, however, should be paired with careful consideration for those who may take longer to demonstrate they are ready to learn”.

 

At Malvern College Hong Kong, the most senior years FY1, FY2, FY3 returned on May 20th and Remove will return on Wednesday 20 May, followed by Prep 6 on Monday 25 May. Wednesday 27 May will see Prep 3 to Prep 5 back at campus, with the youngest pupils from Prep 1 and Prep 2 joining on Monday 1 June.

The school day will operate between 8am and 1pm. Pupils will depart before lunch, and focused activities will be provided for the continuation of learning in the afternoon.

To minimise the risk of exposure to infection, classroom layouts have been adjusted to enable social distancing. Rooms have been allocated in a way to minimise unnecessary movement between spaces. Face masks and temperature checks are mandatory for all pupils, staff, parents, and visitors entering the campus. All facilities, classrooms and equipment will be cleaned and sanitised on a very regular basis. Pupils are encouraged to wash their hands frequently or use alcohol gel when water and soap are not readily available. Disinfectant mats have been placed at the school’s entrances.  

Breaks have been staggered and all pupils take breaks outside in the fresh air but with no contact play.

Teachers and tutors have spent time preparing children for the return to school, and tutor time is focused in the early days on helping pupils settle into the new routines. All parents are required to complete a Travel and Health Declaration prior to school reopening, and the maintenance of a daily Temperature Check Record is mandatory, including at weekends.

 

International College Hong Kong (ICHK) also reopened on May 20th and the planning and preparation prior to opening the school gates was very intense. Classroom set-ups are different, break times are different, social interactions are different. But the beautiful locations of the open and spacious campuses and the plentiful opportunities ICHK offers outside remains as constants.

“We have been speaking a lot about the need to put "the learning agenda" in its rightful place, that is behind the simply human agenda of making sure that everyone in our community is well and feeling comfortable, and that we address, as well as we can, issues that have arisen over the past four months, says Claire Ettinger, Head of Marketing and Admissions. “We need to do this before we even start trying to affirm a ‘new normal. We have arrived at this conclusion: More than ever, we need to focus first on what matters – the human rhythms and interactions that we, as social creatures thrive on. The traits like empathy, kindness and compassion which bond our close-knit community and which we are in need of now, more than ever”, she says.

Young students will return to a physical space alongside dedicated, passionate, inspired adults, with personal growth as their common goal. They will be encouraged to reflect on what they have achieved over recent months. The self-discipline, self-motivation, and self-regulation that have underpinned their efforts are all tremendously valuable assets, and these should be recognised and celebrated.

 

Stamford American School Hong Kong is looking forward to resuming classes on May 25th using a staggered approach with students starting from high school returning to campus on 3 consecutive Mondays. Students will have a modified A/B half-day schedule to maintain physical distancing both on the school bus and on the campus itself. In addition to the health and safety measures, which are the new norm across Hong Kong, the main focus will be the overall well-being of students and the core skills. 

“After a long period of online learning, we need to recognize that physically attending classes will be another change for our students, and we also expect to see the effects of the pandemic itself. Our counseling team has been working with faculty to see how we can address students’ emotional needs and be mindful of students’ cognitive load when planning classes,” shared Karrie Dietz, Head of School.

For the first days back, a committee of passionate faculty and staff have planned some meaningful activities that both celebrate the return to school and allow students to reflect on how they have grown even more.


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