PETALING JAYA: After more than three months, Year Five and Year Six students can finally see their friends and teachers face-to-face again.
But not all of them would return to school today as some parents opted to take a wait-and-see approach to assess if social distancing can be maintained in primary schools.
A parent, who wanted to be known as Lim, said her daughter would be staying home and she had informed the school about that.
She said she was not confident the school had done enough to maintain social distancing.
The 42-year-old mother pointed out that her Year Five daughter’s school in Petaling Jaya would be holding an assembly in the hall before class.
She is also not sure that it will be possible for over 30 students to fit into each classroom using an exam seating configuration, judging by the size of the classrooms.
The school, she said, was using the one session operation model that was announced by Education Minister Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin on July 1.
Radzi said schools could choose between three operation models – one session, two sessions or rotational.
He said Years Five and Six pupils, Forms One to Four students, remove class students and first-semester Form Six students would resume face-to-face classes today.
Lim said her daughter’s school shared with parents the standard operating procedure (SOP) that would be adopted.
“However, the information given in the SOP was insufficient.
“I am concerned about contact tracing and sanitisation as the pupils are still required to move between classes for certain lessons.
“Dismissal time remains the same. On certain days, all the students will be dismissed at the same time, ” she added.
Lim said she understood that her daughter’s school had done its best to prepare for reopening despite facing financial and infrastructure constraints in implementing more adequate social distancing controls.
But as a parent, she still does not have the confidence to send her daughter to school.
“As much as she misses school and though I do not want her to fall further behind in her lessons, my top priority is to keep her safe.
“Hence, I am taking the decision to keep her at home first and continue to monitor the situation until I am confident enough that it is safe for her to attend school.”
Melissa Wong, whose 12-year-old son returned to school today, said she felt anxious but will still send him to school.
“I realise that my child will eventually need to learn to adapt to the new normal. He misses school, his teachers and friends. I think social interaction is important at their age, albeit at a distance now, ” she added.
Wong, 42, said she had been constantly reminding her son about what needed to be done “in the new normal”.
She added that she had equipped him with hand sanitisers, masks and wet wipes for school.
Wong also said her son’s school provided them with the SOP, but she found them inadequate.
For example, she said, there was no detailed explanation on the procedure if a child falls sick or what happens at dismissal time.
“But I understand that the situation is new, and the school and ministry are also trying their best, ” she added.
Sheikh Faisal Sheikh Mansor, 46, is confident his daughter’s school, SK Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya, has taken all the necessary precautions to welcome pupils back today.
He said the school and the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) had taken extra measures to reassure parents that it was safe for their children to return to school.
The PTA has also prepared a “welcome kit” consisting of a face shield and hand sanitiser for students, said Sheikh Faisal, who is also a PTA committee member.
“Classes have been rearranged three times since the first announcement about school reopening.
“Adhering to the latest 1m shoulder-to-shoulder distance requirement in the classrooms, the school managed to fit in all the students in their respective classes, ” he said.
He added that each class had an average of 30 to 40 students.
“The desks are arranged according to exam configuration, ” he said, adding that his daughter’s school is operating on the one-session model.
Sheikh Faisal, a father of two, said he had briefed his children about social distancing and hygiene.
“Always make sure the hands are clean and no sharing of food or eating utensils. We have prepared them with masks, hand sanitisers and wipes.
“We just hope that other parents are taking the same precautionary measures and ensure that only healthy kids go to school so that we would worry less when our children are in school, ” he added.
Sheikh Faisal also said that although school transport operators had taken extra social distancing measures, he would personally send his children to school in the first two weeks.
“We have done our best, both the school and the PTA. With that, I am happy.”
Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin said parents were unaware that the initial social distancing guideline in class was changed to accommodate more students.
Mak said Radzi first told parents that not more than 20 students would be in a class.
But the number of students per class has now been increased to between 30 and 40.
He also said this was very risky as social distancing “is paramount” in keeping everyone safe from Covid-19.
While adhering strictly to the SOP, consider splitting the class where half will stay home and follow physical classes online, Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said, referring to the rotational model.
She cautioned against allowing so many students into a classroom at any given time, potentially crowding it.
“Alternate the days or face a second wave of infections. We do not know who may be asymptomatic.”
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