Coronavirus: Malaysia plans reopening of schools using three different safety models

Kindergarten students practise social distancing at a school, in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on July 1, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian schools can choose from one of three models when they reopen classes soon, the Education Ministry has said.

With the schools to implement social distancing measures when they reopen, including wider spacing between desks in classes, the larger institutions would be able to accommodate more students at any one time.

The government had from June 24 allowed more than 500,000 students from some 2,500 schools to return to classes, as they would be taking their secondary and international leaving examinations.

Schools will reopen on July 15 for primary five and six (Years Five and Six) students, and for secondary one to four (Forms One to Four) pupils.

Primary one to four (Years One to Four) students will return to their classes on July 22, said Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin on Wednesday (July 1).

Malaysian kindergartens reopened from Wednesday, with students and teachers wearing masks at all time and practising social distancing measures as they go about their activities.

Like other countries, Malaysia is grappling with how to safely reopen educational institutions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Malaysian schools and colleges were shut in March when the government began implementing movement curbs.

The movement control order has been relaxed over several phases, with most shops, restaurants and businesses allowed to reopen, while adopting health protocols such as taking the temperature of visitors and making available hand sanitisers.

Malaysia on Tuesday (June 30) reported two new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 8,639. The death tally from the virus stood at 121.

The Health Ministry said Covid-19 patients who had been discharged totalled 8,354 people or 96.7 per cent of all cases.

On the reopening of schools, deputy director-general (school operation sector) Adzman Talib said: "The maximum capacity in a class with social distancing depends on how suitable the classroom is or the space used."

He said in a circular dated June 26: "Because of social distancing measures, not all schools are able to accommodate the large number of students they have".

The bigger schools could choose to adopt Model 1, with every student turning up in one session.

Model 2 as recommended by the ministry would mean a dual session, with possibly half of the student population turning up in one session, and the other half attending classes later on.

Model 3, Mr Adzman said, should be the last option if these schools could not operate using the second model.

The third model for the smaller schools, will have students attending classes on alternate days.

"Students in Forms (secondary) One to Four (under Model 3) must be rotated according to their classes and streams.

"However, if schools have enough space, priority will be given to Form Four students to attend school every day," he said.

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