Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Going back to school not optional; safety measures will be in place

All schools will continue with the safety measures that have been further tightened since late January.
All schools will continue with the safety measures that have been further tightened since late January.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF EDUCATION

Attending school will not be optional, and students will have to return to school according to their assigned schedules from June 2.

Following the announcement that students will progressively return to school when Singapore's circuit breaker period ends on June 1, parents have raised concerns about sending their children to school in the light of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Responding to some of these concerns, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post yesterday that the ministry will do its utmost to keep schools safe through means such as health screenings for everyone entering the school, good hygiene practices and safe distancing.

"But unless there are specific concerns arising from medical conditions, we cannot make attending school voluntary," he said.

"We simply cannot keep our children at home for so long. The impact on their socio-emotional and mental well-being will be serious. Having brought community transmission to a low and controlled level, we should resume school, reclaim a sense of normalcy, while taking many precautions."

As some children may find it difficult to wear a mask all day, all pre-school and primary school pupils will be given face shields when they return to school.

"They can wear either a face mask or a face shield when in school or on campus. This is for their own protection and that of others," Mr Ong wrote.

He added: "Teachers will help young children get used to the masks or shields with time. If there are special circumstances, teachers will also exercise flexibility."

Following the announcement of the easing of circuit breaker measures from June 2 that will allow some businesses to reopen, schools will also be prepared to extend limited care to young pupils without childcare arrangements during their home-based learning weeks.

Non-graduating cohorts in primary and secondary schools are expected to return to school on alternate weeks, with home-based learning in the weeks between.

Mr Ong urged parents and companies to work out arrangements by continuing to telecommute, for example.

Those who are unable to make suitable childcare arrangements can approach their child's school for assistance.

Mr Ong wrote: "By working together, exercising personal res-ponsibility, plus maintaining high levels of personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness, our children can return to school in a safe manner."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2020, with the headline 'Going back to school not optional; safety measures will be in place'. Print Edition | Subscribe