Re-opening school post Circuit-breaker: Safety Measures at OWIS

Michelle Dickinson
Updated on
September 15, 2020

It’s school re-opening season in Singapore, just as it is in many parts of the world. After months of school closures due to the COVID pandemic, students around the world have slowly been getting back to school and in-class learning. The main factor to consider for the re-opening has been that children will return to a safe environment.

In Singapore, students have been returning to school from 2 June 2020, with graduating cohorts in Singapore local schools attending school daily and the rest of the primary and secondary students alternating with in-class learning and home-based learning every week.

 

According to UNESCO, almost 90% of the global student population were affected by school closures world-wide. Ministries of Education around the world are still grappling with when and how to re-open schools. With varying levels of infection across the globe, it has been difficult to determine when is the safest time for children to return to school. Some schools have decided to remain closed for longer, whereas others have trialled re-opening their doors sooner.  While some international schools in Singapore have extended their e-learning and home-based learning programmes, schools like OWIS have made a strategic decision to re-open and welcome students back to school from 3 June 2020. This is because we believe we can offer a safe environment and understand the importance of students getting back to their ‘new normal’ education.

As per Singapore’s Phase 1 rules of school re-opening (from 3 June 2020 until 30 June 2020), OWIS was allowed to have 50% of students on campus at any point of time. Therefore, we adopted an alternate week approach with half of the students across Early Childhood, Primary and Secondary school coming to the campus one week and staying home for a full e-learning programme the following week. We made an exception for our Grade 10 and 11 students who were allowed to come into school daily.

For those students who did not prefer to come into school during their in-school learning week in Phase 1, OWIS provided them with a Home-based learning programme.   We understand that some families preferred to keep their child or children at home, and we wanted to ensure that no child misses out on their learning.

Here’s a look at how OWIS students were in school in June on a rotational basis:

Many operational considerations, precautions and safety measures went into OWIS’s back-to-school planning strategy to ensure children came back to school safely, met their teachers and friends and continue with the excitement of learning in-school alongside their peers. We have ensured that the return to school is smooth and that there is no risk of a rise in cases occurring within the school.

Safety measures at OWIS

While the safety of their children is an on-going concern for parents, they can rest assured that OWIS is following all the required guidelines and additional safe-distancing and hygiene measures, including but not limited to:

●  Staggered drop off and pick-up timings, according to grade levels

●  Safe-distancing arrangements in the school bus: except siblings, students will not be seated next to each other 

●  Twice daily temperature taking of staff and students. If a high temperature is noted, the parents will be advised and they will need to collect their child from school

●  Face masks or face shields for everyone on campus

●  Safe-distancing arrangements in all classrooms, including specialist lessons, by rearranging of furniture and seating arrangements for students to maintain 1m distance

●  Altered play and activity routines to ensure safe distancing, while still allowing the children to enjoy the outdoor space 

●  Frequent reminders to students to maintain personal hygiene (washing hands, not touching the face or shield/mask, maintaining the cleanliness of personal space etc.)

●  Disinfecting of common facilities if different sets of students need to use the same facility consecutively

●  Disinfection of all classrooms at the end of the day

●  More frequent cleaning and disinfection of commonly used facilities such as washrooms and surfaces like doorknobs and railings

●  Safe distancing in the canteen through staggered timings and marking of chairs in the canteen where students are not allowed to sit; all Early childhood students and some of the primary students will be eating in their own classrooms

●  Use of Safe Entry for all staff, students and visitors to ensure faster contact tracing

OWIS has also invested a significant amount in procuring the following items to keep our students and staff safe:

●  Thermal scanners, which help in efficient taking of temperatures and also reduce human contact, compared to hand-held scanners. 

●  Desk separators, to ensure that students keep a safe distance from each other

●  Disinfectant misters, to disinfect classrooms thoroughly, in addition to manual disinfection methods

●  Face-shields for all our teachers and for all students under the age of 12

Our Early Childhood staff have all been tested for COVID-19 as per government regulations, and our EC area is off-limits for everyone except the EC students and staff. Our staff also get their temperature taken twice daily and if there is any chance that anyone is feeling unwell, they will be sent to the appropriate medical professional for a check-up and further testing.

While the physical safety and well-being of our students are important, it is equally important for us to help our students settle into their new routines and become comfortable with all the necessary precautions and measures taken. Teachers are prepared to guide children and reassure them, especially the younger ones, as needed. They understand that this can be an unnerving time for many children, so ensuring that their return to school is as smooth as possible is a priority. Across the world, we are hearing the phrase ‘the new normal’ so we are ensuring that we make this ‘new normal’ as positive as it can be.

Our teachers will spend time explaining to students the reasons behind the new social distancing measures and the wearing of face masks and face shields to ensure everyone’s safety. This will help our students become more familiar with their new arrangements and routines and also help them understand the need for these measures and why it is important to adhere to them.

Even though students may not be able to interact physically with their peers, they will still be able to see them face-to-face, socialise, empathise and bond with each other, while keeping a safe physical distance from each other. They will feel a sense of community and be able to reach out to their peers and teachers if they have any worries about the situation. It also helps them understand that everyone experiences the same worries, as at times they may have felt quite isolated, particularly if they live in a single child household without outdoor space. This is as important to a student’s health, emotional and mental well-being as their academic work and physical well-being.

At OWIS, we believe that by re-opening our school and welcoming back our students, we are bringing back a sense of normality, belonging and connection to our students. We feel confident that we are providing the safest environment possible for our students and their families, and are continuously monitoring the research and guidelines.

If you would like to find out more about the COVID safe return to school process or have any questions, then please do not hesitate to contact us. We take each family's personal situation into consideration at all times.

If you’d like to know more about how we foster a shared sense of belonging, caring and life-long learning in our students, do get in touch with us or register for a virtual school tour.  

About Author

Michelle Dickinson

Head of School

Michelle has a BA (Hons) in History and South Asian Studies from North London University and PGCE from Middlesex University. She began teaching across all three primary key stages. Michelle began her school leadership career in 2002, when she became the Deputy Head Teacher of a large primary school in North London and spent four wonderful years there before relocating to India in 2005.

Her first international position was the Head of Primary of a local/international school in Bangalore in Southern India, where she introduced the Cambridge International Primary Programme and Checkpoint. Michelle then spent 6 years in China and 3 years in Ethiopia developing curriculum and assessment practices.

Michelle believes that children learn best when they are having fun and are engaged in practical, real life activities. While she recognises that outstanding academic achievement is the ultimate goal, she feels it is just as important to build self-esteem, instill character and encourage a global outlook in every child. Michelle believes that learning transcends the classroom environment and is passionate about educational visits and extra-curricular experiences.

Michelle is married with four children - Ana, Hindya, Bille and Markos. The Dickinson family have a sense of adventure and love of life. They particularly enjoy the outdoors, family holidays, making friends, good weather, camping and exploring and are delighted to be at OWIS.

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