KUALA LUMPUR - Schools in several states in Malaysia are set to reopen from Oct 3, but capacity has been limited to 50 per cent in classrooms.
Announcing this on Sunday (Sept 12), Education Minister Radzi Jidin said that students would be split into two groups, taking turns to attend classes in person.
"We will split classes into two groups. We will do this for all classes so that on the whole, only 50 per cent will be in school at any given time," he told reporters.
"For example, we have Group A who attend classes physically, while Group B will study from home for one week. The following week, Group B will come to class while Group A will study from home. This way we can reduce the numbers at any given time," he added.
Datuk Radzi said the reopening will involve only states that are already under the third and fourth phases of the country's Covid-19 exit plan - the National Recovery Plan (NRP).
Under the NRP, phase one is a full lockdown of activities except those deemed essential, while phase two allows for slight easing of restrictions, especially in workplace operations. Phase three sees most sectors operating while some curbs on social sectors remain, and phase four is nearly a full reopening.
The government had outlined threshold indicators for each phase, mostly based on the utilisation of intensive care unit beds and vaccination rate achieved.
Schools will remain closed in states under phases one and two, with certain exceptions such as for students in major examination years or those with special needs.
Kedah and Johor are currently under phase one, while Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, the federal territory of Putrajaya, Penang, Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Melaka and Sabah are under phase two.
Perlis, Negeri Sembilan and Sarawak are under phase three, while the federal territory of Labuan is under phase four.
Mr Radzi said that 88.56 per cent of teachers have been fully inoculated as at Saturday, while 97.46 per cent have received at least one dose.
Only fully vaccinated higher learning students can return to campus to create a safe bubble, while those partially vaccinated will continue with online lessons, said Higher Education Minister Noraini Ahmad.
Malaysia on Sunday recorded 19,198 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases reported in the country to almost two million so far.
A spike in cases, blamed largely on the Delta variant of the coronavirus, has led to the temporary closure of schools since early May.
Infections were found to have spread among students in several schools after they were reopened for several weeks. Students had until then been taught online and from programmes slotted on national television.
Mr Radzi has announced that the 2021 school term would be extended until March next year. Students will remain in the same level and students will be assessed and coached by their teachers prior to moving up a grade.
Face masks will be compulsory for all children returning to school and those who cannot afford it will be provided with one.
Mr Radzi said: "Some are poor and unable to afford masks, so we are asking the schools to supply them. The teachers will be in charge of this."
The ministry is also allowing students to attend school in their regular clothes.
"We think it best to allow them to come to school in regular clothes as long as it is appropriate. Many might have outgrown their uniforms, they might be worn out or they cannot afford new ones due to various factors stemming from the pandemic," Mr Radzi said.
"The aim is to encourage them to return to school and catch up on education, not punish them," he added.