Schools Told Safety Is First Priority

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The Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) has affirmed its plan to resume onsite teaching and learning nationwide in the new school term, starting 1st November, saying, however, schools are not being forced to switch from conducting online classes to onsite ones if they aren’t ready.

Schools are instead required to focus mainly on the safety of learners from another possible COVID-19 outbreak that could occur, said Kamol Rodklai, an adviser to the education minister.

Upon agreeing to implement onsite learning again, the ministry and all education organisations concerned and schools nationwide are now committed to following a handbook for reopening schools while still having to live with COVID-19, Mr Rodklai said.

The handbook consists of three core elements, namely ensuring safety for students from COVID-19 by adopting a COVID-19 control system called Sandbox Safety Zone in School and arranging a study plan that is suitable for schools to strictly follow the COVID-19 control measures, he said.

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The third element outlined in the handbook explains how a school needs to prepare a plan to quickly respond to a new COVID-19 outbreak while conducting onsite classes, he said.

“So, there is no need to be surprised if schools need to abruptly close after reopening and keep switching back and forth between closing and reopening in the coming term if necessary,” Mr Rodklai said.

Under the Sandbox Safety Zone in the School system, the ministry requires at least 80% COVID-19 vaccination among students, while all teachers and other school staff are required to fully be vaccinated before the new school term begins if they choose to resume onsite classes, he said. Random COVID-19 testing using rapid antigen test kits is also required throughout the new school term, he said.

Meanwhile, several schools in Songkhla and Satun may opt to stick to online learning as they aren’t really ready to switch to onsite learning from 1st November, said a source who is a local educator.

Udom Chaliwan, director of Hatyaiwittayalai School in Songkhla’s Hat Yai district, admitted that the school isn’t ready for onsite learning because only about 20% of the 4,100 students have so far been vaccinated. Many of the students come from Covid-19 red zones in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.

Education Minister Treenuch Thienthong reiterated that schools are still allowed to decide themselves if they are ready to switch to onsite learning or not.

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