Select Public Schools to Reopen After Six-Month Covid-19 Closure

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A man rides a motorbike in front of Buthong Tes Anlong Primary School in Ratanakiri province on September 20, 2019. (Heng Vichet/VOD)

The Education Ministry will allow grade 9 and 12 students from one public high school in Phnom Penh, and students across four provinces deemed “low-risk” for Covid-19 transmission, to head back to classrooms in just over a week, following six months of shuttered schools.

The ministry this week decided to allow freshmen and seniors at the capital’s Bak Touk High School — the campus with the most grade 12 students in the country — to reopen from September 7 as a trial for other public schools, according to a ministry post on Facebook. 

Reopened schools will operate both in the classroom and online, based on a school’s existing resources, and staff and students must follow hygiene guidelines set by the Health Ministry, the statement said. 

In order to reopen Bak Touk, school director Touch Kansal said classrooms of 50 students would be divided into rooms of 15 to 20 pupils.

“We are following the guidelines from the Ministry of Health and the guidelines from the Ministry of Education and related groups, so we will do whatever it takes to maintain social distancing of one and a half meters apart,” Kansal said.

The school has more than 1,000 students in grade 12 and more than 600 in grade 9, he added. 

In July, the Education Ministry said it would allow 20 “high standard” private schools to reopen in August. Some students at the International School of Phnom Penh were back in the classroom as of Monday, as the private school began hybrid on-campus and online learning, according to posts on the school’s Facebook page.

The ministry on Tuesday said primary and secondary schools in Stung Treng, Kratie, Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri provinces would be allowed to reopen from September 7 on a reduced schedule. The four provinces have reported no Covid-19 cases.

Classes in those provinces can meet three days a week for four hours each day, with online and paper handout assignments to supplement in-class learning. For students who live outside the towns where they attend school, they should report to class two days a week, the statement added. 

Ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha told VOD on Thursday that schools in the four provinces were deemed low risk for coronavirus transmission after officials inspected and evaluated the sites. 

“The Ministry of Education will look for other opportunities to reopen public institutions in other cities and provinces on a small scale, and the ministry will allow private institutions from kindergarten to higher education to reopen after checking and evaluating directly at the institutions,” he said.

An additional ministry statement from Wednesday said kindergartens, primary and secondary schools should get ready to reopen in a second stage, which Soveacha said would start in early September for some public and private institutions. 

School reopenings in the second stage would be on a small scale, he added, with no more than 15 students per classroom.

According to the Health Ministry, Cambodia has recorded 273 cases of Covid-19 since January, with just eight active cases as of Friday. No new coronavirus cases have been reported for two weeks. 

(Translated and edited from the original articles on VOD Khmer)

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