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Rules set for school reopening

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A teacher takes students’ temperature at Bak Kheng primary school in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district in January. Hong Menea

Rules set for school reopening

With middle and high schools set to reopen this week, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on September 13 issued their standard operating procedures (SOP) on health and safety for learning and teaching in clusters for private and public schools.

According to the four-page SOP document, the ministry requires each school and educational institution to set up a health commission to work on health and safety measures and contribute to the reduction of risks for Covid-19 transmissions.

Education minister Hang Chuon Naron states in the SOP that each school and educational institution has to have a designated health room in their school facilities equipped with first aid kits, temperature scanners, face masks and sanitisers. All of this equipment has to be resupplied as needed on a daily basis.

“All educational institutions have to stop studies or temporarily close the school in case there is a transmission, and report to relevant authorities for immediate action,” Chuon Naron said.

The SOP instructs that all students and school personnel must manage their waste properly and all classrooms have to be prepared to allow students to sit at least 1.5m from each other with no more than 15 students per class.

Regarding vaccinations, Chuon Naron said students and teachers must be vaccinated and must show their vaccination cards before entering the schools. Those without vaccination cards or who have chronic illnesses can continue learning online.

He advised that all people should bring meals from home and should not share them and that the sale of food at schools is banned except for food providers that have received special permission from the relevant authorities.

Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng said the municipality will not allow any educational institution to reopen that does not properly comply with the SOP.

While inspecting the clean-up of Chea Sim Santhormok High School in Tuol Kork district on September 13, Sreng said although the spread of Covid-19 in the capital has been on the decline, the municipality remains vigilant against the re-emergence of the virus.

“The municipal administration will reopen the schools for children aged 12 and over who have been vaccinated. The reopening process will be done step by step and any school that complies with the education ministry’s SOP will be allowed to operate,” he said.

“In cases where the school doesn’t qualify according to the SOP, we will not allow them to reopen for now and will provide them with further guidance,” he said.

Sreng said there could be criticism that the municipality play favourites or discriminate against certain schools, but he stressed that authorities need to make sure each school can comply with the ministry’s SOP.

“I request that owners of private and public institutions cooperate with our team, which will inspect them. Any school that meets the ministry’s SOP we will reopen gradually,” he said.

The governor confirmed on September 15 that the reopening of educational institutions was not the same as the reopening of all schools at the beginning of a regular school year, but a gradual process of reopening and only for schools that are in compliance with the ministry’s SOP and able to fulfil their duties towards their teachers, staff, parents and students to provide a safe school environment.

In Phnom Penh, the Covid-19 situation seems to have improved with the advent of widespread vaccinations. The number of cases has decreased significantly while death toll has dropped sharply from 30 per day previously down to five per day on average, most whom are old or suffering from chronic health problems.

Those teachers with health problems who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be asked to teach online. Those who have been vaccinated twice and received a booster dose will be strongly encouraged to return to the classroom.

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