Handling of new cases key as HCMC prepares schools' reopening

By Manh Tung   November 28, 2021 | 03:54 am PT
Handling of new cases key as HCMC prepares schools' reopening
A medic provides consultation to a high school student before Covid-19 vaccination in HCMC, October 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Manh Tung
HCMC authorities are preparing a detailed plan to deal with possible Covid-19 cases for students of grades 9 and 12 after their schools open early December.

According to the plan being prepared by the HCMC Department of Education and Training, students in grades 9 and 12 in areas with safe and low Covid risks will resume on-site learning starting December 10.

The move has been approved in principle by the city administration, but detailed guidelines have not been announced yet.

Two years since the pandemic disrupted education, schools have regularized prevention measures, including screening body temperatures and ensuring social distancing in class.

The new problem when they reopen is how to deal with the appearance of new infections.

Huynh Thanh Phu, principal of the Nguyen Du High School in District 10, said that, unlike before, it was not possible to blockade the whole school or close it immediately since it will cause further learning losses. The current approach is to calmly identify cases and conduct contact tracing for proper follow up actions.

"When a new Covid patient is detected, only those who have been in close contact will have to be isolated at home, the others will study in another backup classroom and have their health monitored.

"Thus, the learning process will not be interrupted, and the remaining students will not be affected," Phu said.

Kim Nguyen Quynh Giao, principal of the Nguyen Van Linh High School in District 8, said she was ready to welcome back 284 grade 12 students in seven classes.

She suggested that high schools in the area, district health centers and local officials should coordinate with each other when detecting new Covid patients on campuses.

About 1,050 students of the school have been fully vaccinated since Nov. 23. The school has been cleaned and repaired to return to its original state after being requisitioned as a centralized quarantine camp.

Duong Tri Dung, deputy director of the municipal Department of Education and Training, said during a live streaming event Friday that the most important criteria for schools reopening were the plans to deal with new Covid patients.

Schools must anticipate all possible scenarios when reopening and their plans must be approved by the authorities, he said.

To ensure safety, most high schools have ramped up current preventive measures and set up more classrooms to maintain social distance among students.

"We are considering the option for letting students in the same class work in small groups. This would make it easier to manage students while improving their teamwork skills," Dung said.

Nguyen Huu Huan High School in Thu Duc City plans to have students coming in on different dates and time frames, and divide grade 12 classes.

The school will evaluate and gradually open the remaining classes if the pilot program succeeds and it is permitted to do so, Huan said.

At the Ha Huy Tap Secondary School in Binh Thanh District, the preparation work has been completed. The school has installed eight more hand wash basins outside, including where parents often stop to pick up students.

Hua Thi Diem Tram, the school's principal, said that she will disseminate relevant information to teachers, parents and students on how to respond when new Covid cases are detected.

Meanwhile, Tran Thuy An, principal of Minh Duc Secondary School in District 1, considers a plan to provide additional courses for the returning students in mid-December as it coincides with the preparation time for the final exam of the first term.

The school will both complete the ongoing courses and arrange additional revision programs.

"What many parents and schools are concerned about is how the 9th graders' high school entrance exams will be carried out. The Department of Education and Training should make early plans so that schools and students can take the initiative," An suggested.

Unlike public schools, many private boarding high schools are still not ready to resume on-site learning in mid-December as thousands of students are still in their hometowns and have not been vaccinated.

For example, the Thanh Nhan High School in Tan Phu District has 1,500 students. Of these, 80 percent are still in other provinces and cities.

"We might keep our online classes going even after reopening because students are yet to return to the city," said principal Nguyen Dinh Do.

Phan Van Mai, Chairman of the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, had previously agreed to allow students of grades 9 and 12, who had gotten fully vaccinated before 14 days and were living in safe and low Covid risk areas, to return to school.

The education and health sectors were instructed to review the following factors: facilities, vaccination rates and safety plans before asking schools to reopen.

According to the city's Department of Education and Training, training for staff and teachers on pandemic prevention will take place in early December. Teachers will hold meetings with parents of grade 9 and 12 students before Dec. 5. Students of these grades will resume in person learning starting Dec. 10, before other grades can return to school.

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