International schools reopen, brace for Covid

By Viet Anh   February 19, 2022 | 06:00 am PT
International schools in HCMC and Hanoi have reopened with Covid-19 safety protocols in place, and parents are mostly unworried about sending their children.

On Feb 14 international schools in HCMC welcomed back preschool, primary and grade six students after months of online learning as Vietnam sought to contain Covid.

The schools were confident about the reopening, thanks to their experience in dealing with previous openings for grades seven to 12 between December 2021 and early January.

Barry Sutherland, head of American International School Vietnam, said directions had been sought from the city Department of Education and Training and Center for Disease Control on safety protocols.

The school encourages parents to monitor their children and do a quick test at home if there are symptoms of illness and notify it.

Students of American International School Vietnam (AISVN) join in person class on Feb 14. Photo courtesy of AISVN

A class at the American International School Vietnam on Feb 14, 2022. Photo courtesy of AISVN

British International School principal Anthony Rowlands said various measures had been taken to ensure safety when secondary school students returned to classes before the Lunar New Year holiday.

Everyone had to take a rapid test at home not more than 24 hours before returning to school, students were encouraged to bring their own learning tools and greater social distancing was ensured by staggering start, break and lunch times, he said.

"These measures proved to be highly successful and we will implement these across all of our campuses."

In Hanoi, Rik Millington, principal of the International School ParkCity Hanoi, said besides a mandatory rapid test before first coming to school, the school also recommends that students should get weekly tests, and the staff also need to do regular tests as directed by the school.

"After such a long period of home learning, and not being together, it is just fantastic for us to have started the process of returning to school."

Many schools have reopened with no human resource problems since all teachers remained in Vietnam.

Davina McCarthy, Executive Principal of Australian International School in HCMC, said all expatriate teaching staff are here in HCMC and were "eager" to resume face-to-face learning.

While a majority of students have returned from abroad after the lifting of flight restrictions, some have not but are able to study online.

The Canadian International School System said its youngest students, who have not had the opportunity to develop social skills in a classroom setting, would be behind in social development as a result.

While this might be a disadvantage for the moment, it believed that by creating the right environment, their development could be accelerated and they would catch up quickly.

No worries at all, parents say

Vietnam has provided Covid vaccination to most adults and children from 12 years old, while younger children, those of up to sixth grade, have not been jabbed.

But that does not worry parents much.

Tania, an American living in HCMC who did not want to disclose her surname, said her children returned to school on Feb 14.

She checked the school's safety protocol and knows that all teachers and staff are fully vaccinated, and so is not worried about the risk of infection.

"I am very happy that my children can finally go back to school."

Her children are young and learning new concepts online is not ideal, she said.

According to Canadian Liam Tremblay (name changed), also of HCMC, his daughter went back to school on Feb 14, and he was comfortable with it since her school has scrupulously followed the government’s directives.

If things change, Tremblay expects the government to follow scientific advice and be cautious. He also looks forward to seeing his girl and school continue to follow protocols until things are deemed to be safer.

Desiani Haf, an Indonesian living in Hanoi, said since Feb 8 her son, a secondary student at The Dewey School, goes to school in the morning and studies online in the afternoon.

She makes sure every morning that he has extra masks and a hand sanitizer in his bag.

She feels secure since his school adopts Covid precaution measures like checking students’ temperatures and requiring wearing of masks in class. It also constantly updates parents on "everything."

"I do not worry about Covid any more thanks to the vaccine. People are infected and recover quickly. We need to live with the pandemic."

She is also pleased her son can resume playing sports he loves such as football.

Haf, who also has a girl in grade six who is still studying online, hopes she can get vaccinated soon and return to school like her brother. Hanoi has not allowed young children of up to sixth grades in inner districts to return to school due to Covid fears.

Millington of International School ParkCity Hanoi said while Covid cases have not yet been found in school, it is only a matter of time before it happens. The school's procedures, which are very clear and well established, mean that when it happens, contact tracing, determining who is ‘F1’ and home quarantining would be a challenge in the coming weeks.

"But there is great optimism about the fact that we can finally see the end of the pandemic - even if it is still several months away."

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