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Abu Dhabi-based students return to in-classroom education

ABU DHABI- Teachers, students and parents throughout Abu Dhabi are eyeing a major step to education normalcy after the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) relaxed a slew of school-related COVID-19 prevention protocols.

ADEK announced in a circular sent to all private and Charter Schools that all students must return to in-classroom learning. Only weeks after ADEK removed physical distancing requirements in outdoor open areas for the current term, physical distancing requirements will be lifted inside classrooms in time for the new term.

Complementing ADEK’s unwavering efforts to ensure the ongoing health and safety of the education sector and wider Abu Dhabi community, the updated protocols follow widespread compliance with precautionary measures across the emirate’s school community – with the proactive collective response enabling the safe return to education ecosystem normalcy.

All students must return to in-classroom learning for the new term, although students can be exempted if they present an attested ‘high risk’ medical report that confirms their inability to attend school in-person. Schools will also be given the option to lift physical distancing requirements in classrooms, with students in grades 1-12 required to wear face masks. This new step will enable schools to return to full capacity and empower all Abu Dhabi students to resume in-classroom education.

The full return to in-classroom education excludes students exempted on medical grounds, students showing COVID-19 symptoms, or when the school shifts to distance learning due to closure requirements.

Unvaccinated students aged 16 and above can now return to school upon providing a negative PCR test result every seven days.

However, all students must present a 96-hours negative COVID-19 test result on the first day of their return to school. Free tests are available at SEHA Drive Through Centers and private medical centers, and parents have been advised to contact the centers to confirm the availability of a free test for students. Students aged below 12 may opt for a free Saliva test at dedicated centers detailed on ADEK website.

Following their return, routine PCR test requirements mandate all vaccinated students aged 16+, teachers and staff to undergo PCR tests every 14 days, and show their green status on Al Hosn App to enter schools; same testing routine and requirements apply for the same categories with medical exemption validated on Al Hosn App. PCR test validity remain 30 days for students aged under 16. Al Hosn Green Pass requirements will apply to all school visitors, while unvaccinated visitors will be required to present a negative PCR test result recorded within the last 48 hours.

Following the latest announcement made by relevant government entities, students, teachers and staff who come in close contact with a confirmed positive case, will be required to test on day 1 and day 7 or when they start showing symptoms. Earlier in March quarantine requirements were removed for the same categories.

The updated protocols also remove classroom and bubble closure requirements, with a three-day school-level closure only taking place if 15% of its student body test positive at the same time. Following the completion of closure period, close contact students must adhere to the testing schedule, while students who tested positive continue their distance learning till the completion of their isolation procedures.

ADEK confirmed its inspection and compliance teams will continue regular visits to private and Charter Schools across the emirate to ensure the health and safety of all students. In coordination with all relevant authorities, ADEK also confirmed its commitment to continue monitoring all schools’ adherence to health and safety precautions.

The new updated protocols complement the latest relaxation of precautionary measures that came into effect earlier in March 2022. Those measures allowed for mask removal in outdoor areas, and removal of quarantine for contacts of positive cases. The updated protocols also allowed the return of all sport activities for students aged 16 and above on school premises. School trips were permitted for students in all age groups, while adhering to precautionary measures in place at the venue of the school trip.

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