A phased approach for reopening schools and universities

09 June 2020 Consultancy-me.com

Given the space restrictions due to Covid-19 guidelines, schools and universities in the Middle East will need to carefully map out how they open up their premises to students. 

As governments across the region ease lockdown measures to restart economies and rejuvenate physical education after some three months of digital teaching, schools and universities are scrambling to understand what measures they should adhere to, and how they can bring them into practice and in a manner that is both cost effective and student centric.

According to a new report by Oliver Wyman, Covid-19 closures has affected more than 12 million learners in the GCC countries, and this group of education-hungry students is now eager to return to school. 

In planning for their return, schools and academic institutions will need to take a holistic approach to their plans, which go far beyond just increasing classroom space or reducing the number of students in school, spanning logistics, safety processes, educational content, procedures and stakeholder communication. 

Current thinking is a staged approach to re-opening schools

First, social distancing requirements will need to be planned for, and on average, the restrictions will mean that 30% of students will not be able to be accommodated. In parallel, other important pre-opening steps include staff training with enhanced roles for nursing staff and counselors, scenario planning in case of infection, and procedures to ‘track, trace and test’ pupils. 

The second phase of the three-staged approach is geared at making sure that staged openings (priority to critical grades; staggered arrivals, lessons) are successful, and that interactions in classrooms and the school premises are Covid-19-proof. This includes temperature checks at entry, enhanced sterilisation and cleaning processes. 

The post-opening phase spells out to ensure close monitoring of infection rates with continued track/trace, rapid quarantine measures should infections be detected, and clear and effective communication between schools, students, and parents. Meanwhile, parents should also be trained to maintain hygiene practices at school and at home. 

Considerations to re-opening schools given space limitations

Commenting on the approach, Oliver Wyman partner Jeff Youssef said: “A staged approach to re-opening schools post Covid-19 will allow policy makers and academic institutions to address the long-term implications of prolonged school and university closures.”

Authors of the ‘Re-opening Schools Post Covid-19’ are Dubai-based Oliver Wyman experts Jeff Youssef, Abdulkarim Alyousef, Daban Hamid and Laila Kuznezov.


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