‘New normal’ for students returning to school

Wani Roslan & Syazwani Hj Rosli

The second phase of school reopening began yesterday, seeing thousands of students from pre-school level to Year 5 returning to school grounds after months of home-based learning due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Sultanate.

Students of Chung Hwa Middle School Bandar Seri Begawan (CHMS BSB) were greeted by new timetables, with each class divided into two groups to observe social distancing.

According to its Assistant Kindergarten Principal Sim Man Ling, the learning period for Kindergarten 3 students has been cut by an hour, from 8am to 11.45am previously to now ending at 10.45am.

“There are no extracurricular activities such as physical exercise, music and dance,” she said.

“We focus solely on the academic.”

She added that Kindergarten 1 and 2 children will continue with home-based learning.

CHMS BSB Principal Kho Guik Lan urged parents to have faith that the school will follow the guidelines set by the Ministry of Health (MoH).

“We have set up the school premises to ensure health safety measures are in place,” she said, adding that parents have the option of continuing with remote learning for their children.

Similar approach has been adopted by Seri Mulia Sarjana School (SMSS), with students split into two groups and Kindergarten 1 and 2 children remaining home-based.

ABOVE & BELOW: A student has his temperature taken at the entrance of Anggerek Desa Primary School; and Jigsaw Primary School Chief Operating Officer and medical advisor Dr Jimmy Chin shows the students the proper way of wearing a face mask. PHOTOS: RAHWANI ZAHARI & BAHYIAH BAKIR

A student wearing a face shield attends his first day of school reopening at Seri Mulia Sarjana School
Kindergarten 3 children observe social distancing as they head to their classroom at Chung Hwa Middle School Bandar Seri Begawan

SMSS teacher Kevin Ying Chen Yun said, “Prior to first class, the students attended an orientation on preventive measures. They were briefed on the new timetables, the new waiting areas and what to do during break time.”

Teacher Gina R Octoso added, “In this pandemic, we are not strict when it comes to attendance, as long as they do their home-based learning and submit their outputs. We also highly encourage the students to wear face masks, and each classroom has a hygiene kit, such as hand sanitiser, to be used before and leaving the premises.”

SMSS Deputy Principal (Academic) of Preschool Section Cecilia Landingin noted that parents are still wary about their children returning to school. However, as long as the students continue to learn, they have the option of sticking with home-based learning.

“But as much as possible, we encourage parents to send their children to school because Kindergarten 3 is a very crucial time in a child’s education journey because they will enter Year 1 next year,” she added.

Meanwhile, students at Jigsaw Primary School attended a briefing on the first day of school reopening by the school’s Chief Operating Officer and medical advisor Dr Jimmy Chin, during which he showed the students the proper way to wear a face mask, use hand sanitiser and observe social distancing.

According to Principal and Chief Executive Officer Helen Chin, the school is following Model 3, whereby upper primary school students attend three physical classes a week, lower primary school students two classes a week and Kindergarten 3 children once a week.

Kindergarten 1 and 2 children, she said, will continue with home-based learning.

“Each class has been divided into two groups, which each classroom housing no more than 15 students,” she added.

The school also encouraged students to bring along with hygiene pack of face mask, hand sanitiser, tissues and hand wash.

At present, some 260 students attend the morning session, with the library and science laboratory having been turned into classrooms to accommodate the new normal.

To avoid congestion, the school has also implemented staggered arrival times, with Year 6 students at 7am and Year 1-5 at 7.15am.

Staggered scheduling has also been incorporated into the new school term at Anggerek Desa Primary School.

Its Headmistress Mardiah binti Wahab said the school has opted to implement staggered timetables for its Year 4 and 5 students, with Year 4 physical classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Year 5 on Mondays and Tuesdays. The new arrangement, she believed, will minimise overcrowding of students on the school grounds.

She also shared the success of the first phase of school reopening on June 2, during which 43 Year 6 students were divided into three groups.

“We had to modify the timetables by focussing on core subjects such as English, Malay, science, mathematics and religious studies,” she said, while the remaining subjects continue to be home-based learning.

She applauded the parents for their understanding of the challenging situation and their efforts to adjust to the new way of schooling for their children.

“We are grateful for the parents’ support, including packing personal hygiene items such as tissues, face masks and hand sanitisers for their children,” she said. “Of course, for those without these items, the school does provide for them.”

The school has also set up a temperature checkpoint at the entrance and a BruHealth QR code for school staff and visitors as well as hand sanitisers outside every classroom as part of its precautionary measures, Mardiah said.

“During recess, students are not allowed to roam the school grounds unless they are heading for the canteen, which must be supervised by a teacher,” she said. “Additionally, students are encouraged to bring along packed meals if possible.”

The desks, she said, have also been rearranged to meet the social distancing rule of one metre.

Students with flu-like symptoms such as fever and cough are advised to stay at home, she added.

“From our observations in the past couple of weeks, the students are aware of the importance of social distancing,” she said. “We hope that our Years 4 and 5 students will be just as disciplined and prioritise personal hygiene in school.”