Despite schools in the emirate moving to online learning for the first two weeks of term, the “Blue Schools” Covid-19 response initiative will officially begin in Abu Dhabi schools from Monday 3rd January.
Designed by the Abu Dhabi schools regulator, ADEK, the Blue Schools system will incentivise and reward schools based upon student vaccination rates. Every school in Abu Dhabi has been awarded a colour tier and corresponding privileges. Schools with under 50% of students vaccinated will be termed an orange school, yellow schools will be those with 50-64% of students vaccinated and green schools 65-84%. The top tier will be a blue school, with more than 85% of students vaccinated.
At present, the UAE has approved the Pfizer vaccine for children over the age of 12, and Sinopharm for those aged 3 and over.
Abu Dhabi schools with higher vaccination rates will be able to reduce measures such as social distancing and mask wearing. By way of example, a blue (top tier) school will be able to allow students to remove masks when outdoors and use 100% of space capacity on buses. For an orange school, the lowest tier, masks will be required at all times for all students over Kindergarten age, and only 75% capacity of bus space may be used.
Different tier levels will cause schools to close in differing circumstances. Blue schools will likely see far less class and school closures, as the in the instance of one confirmed Covid-19 case in a class, only immediate contacts will be required to quarantine, thereby reducing the number of class and “bubble” closures, which are then the indicators for a whole school closure.
If circumstances warrant a school closure, the duration of the closure will be dependant on tier status. With 3 “macrobubbles” closed and/or 24 cases in a school, a yellow school will be forced to close for 10 days. In a green school, with the same number of cases and macrobubble closures, the school will be permitted to reopen after only 7 days.
ADEK terms a macrobubble as “…a group of classes and individuals (students and staff) who are physically isolated from other macrobubbles during the school day”. ADEK recommends that all schools have a minimum of 3 macrobubbles.
School life will be far closer to a pre-Covid “normal” in a blue school, with all school events, celebrations and trips permitted. The same will remain suspended in an orange school and be subject to limitations in yellow and green schools.
All Abu Dhabi schools will switch to distance learning for the first two weeks of term 2. Whether school principals will actively encourage their students to take a vaccination remains to be seen.
As at the beginning of January 2022, ADEK reports 37,299 (97%) of the emirate’s teaching staff as being vaccinated against Covid19. For students, the figure is 121,394 or 44% of Abu Dhabi school pupils.