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Phuket schools reopen to ‘new normal’

Phuket schools reopen to ‘new normal’

PHUKET: Some 40,000 students in Phuket this morning (July 1) made their way to their first day of school since all educational institutions in the country were placed under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Khunanya Wanchanwet

Wednesday 1 July 2020, 10:30AM

Thai government schools and private schools operating to the Thai school year were to start the new school year on May 16, but the school-year restart was delayed due to fears that children would be exposed to the spread of virus.

Supaporn Yukhunthon of the Phuket Education Area Office assured that all 90 schools in Phuket reopening to in-person classes today had been inspected under a campaign that began on June 1. 

Each school must comply with health regulations set out by the Ministry of Education working in conjunction with the country’s Department of Health, Ms Supaporn explained.

The regulations are classified into six categories as follows:

  1. Safety, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through measures such as social distancing, screening points, having sanitising gel available, having all people entering and exiting school grounds register through the Thai Chana web platform or by signing an entry form. All students must wear a face mask or a face shield, while all teachers must wear both a face mask and a face shield.
  2. Education and awareness, by informing all students, parents and staff about COVID-19.
  3. Helping children, by the school having various measures in place to help children comply with the regulations, such as providing face masks to underprivileged children or a child who forgot to bring one.
  4. Protecting children and the welfare of the child, by having measures in place to provide care for children who become ill, especially from COVID-19.
  5. Medical policies, to provide appropriate care for children at the school.
  6. Budget management, by making sure appropriate funds are available to comply with the regulations.

Ms Supaporn explained that to be approved to reopen each school in Phuket had to successfully pass an inspection of 44 items on a checklist.

“Twenty of those items were mandated by the Department of Health,” she said.

“Every school had to pass all 44 assessments before being allowed to reopen,” Ms Supaporn. 

"Every school in Phuket did, " she added.

Schools are permitted to make adjustments to the usual school practices and procedures in order to comply with the “new normal” requirements, Ms Supaporn noted.

Citing social distancing as an example, Ms Supaporn explained, “If the school does not have enough room or space, the school can adjust the class schedule.”

Kindergartens and special educational centres must make special efforts to ensure children are protected, Ms Supaporn also noted.

“For these places, more strict measures than usual must be in place, such as cleaning toys and making sure there is adequate space the the students to take naps during the day,” she said.

The Education Area Office will conduct random checks to make sure schools are complying with the “new normal” requirements, Ms Supaporn assured.

“If we find any measures that need adjusting or improving, we will inform the Ministry of Education [headquarters in Bangkok],” she said.

"Although we are now entering a period of relaxing the measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19, there may be other variables causing problems. Therefore, we will have to gradually solve each problem as they arise," Ms Supaporn explained.

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