Primary, secondary and pre-u students to return to school in 2 phases from 2 June

SINGAPORE — Primary school, secondary school and pre-university students will return to school in two phases from 2 June, with priority given to students from graduating cohorts and students who need additional support, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Tuesday (19 May).

The phase of safe re-opening comes as the circuit breaker period – which started on 8 April for schools – is slated to end on 1 June.

In Phase 1, for the first few weeks of Term 3 starting on 2 June, primary and secondary students from graduating cohorts – Primary 6, Secondary 4 and 5 – will attend school from Mondays to Fridays. 

“I know we've been trying to dial down the over-emphasis on examinations, and I know these students and their parents are getting a lot more anxious, who want these students to come back on a daily basis to support them, because national examinations are coming,” said Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung during a virtual press-conference helmed by the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce on Tuesday.

Students from other cohorts – Primary 1 to 5 and Secondary 1 to 3 – will rotate weekly between home-based learning and returning to school for lessons. 

For junior colleges and Millennia Institute, arrangements will be made for half of their students to be back in school at any one time. There will be a system of rotation to allow students to have sufficient face-to-face time with their teachers, particularly the graduating cohorts.

“We will not have the weekly rotation method (like for primary and secondary schools) – instead, they will have more flexibility,” said Ong.

“Each school will have their own flexibility and they will communicate it to their students and their parents. We will do this (and rotations) for two cycles, so four weeks. By then, I hope we will be able to move on to a new phase of opening. And then after that, have all students back in school.”

In Phase 2, in tandem with the broader easing at the national level, possibly in a few weeks’ time, all students will return to school from Mondays to Fridays.

For students from Assumption Pathway School (APS), NorthLight School, and special education (SPED) schools, their return will be staggered from 2 June and they will be back in school by 8 June. 

The institutes of higher learning (IHLs) will take the following approach from 2 June:

• Polytechnics: Lectures and tutorials will remain online. Students will return mainly for practical and lab sessions – about a quarter of the student population at any given day.

• Institute of Technical Education: Students will rotate weekly between online and on-campus lessons. They will return mainly for practical and lab sessions. At any one time, 40 per cent of students are expected to be back on campus.

• Autonomous universities: Students from the Singapore Institute of Technology and Singapore University of Technology and Design will continue having lectures and tutorials online. They will return mainly for practical and lab sessions, including capstone and final-year projects. The other AUs will be having their vacation.

The IHLs will progressively increase the number of students back on campus at any one time for face-to-face lessons.

All schools are required to carry out safe management measures such as daily temperature-taking, wearing of face masks or face shields for students and staff, frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces, staggering of arrival, dismissal, and recess timings, and minimising inter-mingling among classes.

Ong noted that there have been 29 student infections so far since the beginning of the epidemic here. Of these cases, two caught the virus overseas and another two have no established links, while the rest were infected by adult members from their households.

The schools will therefore go a step further beyond screening the health of students at entry points by asking them whether any adult members in their family show symptoms of fever or cough.

“If there is, we'll isolate the child and get the child to go home. When the family member recovers, the child can come back,” Ong explained.

Co-curricular activities (CCAs), as well as all centre-based tuition and enrichment classes, will continue to be suspended, as these bring together students from different class and different schools together to mingle, he added.

But students from graduating cohorts who attend centre-based learning to prepare for their examinations in subjects such as music, art and mother tongue languages, will be allowed to attend their classes but with safe distancing measures in place, Ong said.

“So after angsting about it, we decided for this group of graduating cohort, we will allow their centre-based teaching to continue, but it will be done in small classes 20 maximum, short periods one and a half hours and staggered times.”

Preschool returning in cohorts from 2 June

Preschool children will return in cohorts: K1 and K2 children will return on 2 June, while Nursery 1 and Nursery 2 children can return on 8 June and infant-care and playgroup children can return from 10 June.

“To support parents who would like care arrangements for their children, preschools, as well as early intervention centres, will start to resume general services from 2 June,” said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee at the same press conference.

Similarly, early intervention centres will also reopen in phases starting with in-person intervention for children with higher needs, and children who only attend early intervention centres.

To reduce the risk of transmission between centres, children who attend preschool will continue to receive their early intervention services remotely, Lee added.

“Supplementary programmes such as enrichment and early intervention services where providers may move across different centres will remain suspended for now, because if you have providers go to one centre and another and another, there is always a risk of transmission across multiple settings,” he said.

Student care centres for older children will fully reopen on 2 June, with necessary precautions in place within the centre.

In response to a media query, Lee said that as of Sunday, some 8,500 preschool and early intervention staff have been swabbed and will be tested.

“As of now, we have no confirmed positive cases. But given that we are going to test some 30,000 staff, we do expect that there might be some cases,” he added.

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