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Al Hekma International School GESS Talks

Reopening Schools in Bahrain Despite COVID-19

All schools stalk holders have a common goal which is to prioritize the reopening of their schools during the COVID-19 pandemic as safely and as quickly as possible.

In order to enable this and assist schools with their day-to-day operations, schools around Bahrain have adopted and diligently implemented actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 inside the school campuses and out in the community.

The Bahraini Ministry Of Education has given the freedom to school managements to plan on how to reopen, weighing the risks and benefits for both public health and education, among other factors. In most schools’ view, it will be a combination of the remote learning model they used to finish the past school year, coupled with hybrid and face-to-face instruction. A common plan is that half of a schools’ students will be in class two days a week, and then the rest of the week they’ll work online from home while the other students attend class, with schools closed one day each week for deep cleaning. Parents were surveyed and involved in the decision. The majority of families favored both remote and hybrid. The terms hybrid learning and blended learning are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same. They both pair face-to-face instruction with online learning. But the primary difference between them is this: Blended learning uses online learning resources to supplement face-to-face instruction, while hybrid learning uses online resources to replace portions of students’ instruction that would otherwise be delivered face-to-face. Hybrid students are exposed to a mix of classroom instruction and remote education: self-study through take-home exercises and online learning.

Online learning can excel with independent exploration, innovative collaboration, information and technology literacy, and content mastery. Students can watch videos and read articles again and again to reinforce conceptual familiarity, complete assignments in a time and place that best suit their individual needs, and take more time crafting written dialogue with their peers. Online discussion forums offer opportunities to develop a more sustained and richer exploration of material than the more rapid-fire interaction of a face to-face classroom, and students who may not be comfortable speaking in a room full of people often blossom as strong contributors online.

In the school I work in “Al Hekma International school (AHIS)” we offered our parents to choose from different learning models; A) Attending B) Hybrid-streaming and C) Remote learning models. Our reopening plan was divided into two main phases.

Phase 1:                

-Develop clear and easy to understand protocols on physical distancing measures, including prohibiting activities that require large gatherings, shifting to virtual activities, staggering the start and close of the school day, moving classes to temporary spaces and having school in shifts to reduce class size(hybrid model). Develop detailed protocols on hygiene measures, including hand washing, use of protective equipment like masks and face shields and cleaning procedures for facilities. Al Hekma implemented a staggered entry and exit procedure to eliminate overcrowding by assigning different entry and dismissal gates and by assigning different dismissal times. Modes of thermal screening will be present at the entrance of the school gates. In cases of COVID-19 emergency, the school will follow MOH (Ministry of Health) endorsed guidelines for emergencies by the school’s qualified nurse while wearing adequate personal protection equipment. Social distance stickers were applied to main safe distance between students and staff. Students or staff with high risk conditions (specific illnesses or immune compromised) was offered alternative education means (i.e. online provision), until further notice. AHIS decided to postpone special events such as festivals, holiday events, special performances, and sports tournaments until further notice. Group activities such as school trips, celebrations, sports and student camps were suspended. Food catering was also suspended until further notice. Students were requested to bring their own food.

Prior to school opening we provided teachers with support and training on hybrid and remote learning models and ways to support students. This included creating peer groups on different platforms like Google class and Class Dojo and the SSO (single sign on) for parents.  

Phase 2:

AHIS trained administrative staff and teachers on implementing physical distancing and school hygiene practices. Form a COVID-19 committee who are all trained on first aid. We also allocated an isolation room and shifted class seating plans from group to individual abiding with the 1.5 M social distance. The school increased investments in hybrid and remote learning to strengthen teaching and learning. Focusing on e-books, digital assessments and supplementary on line courses like APEX.  AHIS shared clear, concise and accurate information about COVID-19 and re-opening plan, normalized messages about adopted teaching models and health and safety strategies.

Despite the new learning styles, the schedules and the numerous safety protocols put in place, we at AHIS believe that the first week of school was successful, with only a few minor challenges. It was full of excitement and full of explorations. From what we have observed, the students were most excited about seeing each other and their teachers (and that is the most important part of being at school). We were very pleased to see that students were following the safety measures, such as wearing their masks, keeping their distance from one another and washing their hands. Empowering the students to be responsible for their space means that they are also involved in keeping the classroom tidy. The first two days of school were dedicated to getting students adjusted to learning in their new environment and learning about the virtual classrooms and how to log in to the zoom classes. This week was all about exploring our new teaching models from face to face teaching to streaming to remote/virtual classes. The online learning for students enrolled in the remote learning is going well, students were able to successfully log in and complete their assignments. It is too early to tell how things are going with the hybrid model, but the engagement between the online students and students is going well. To date there has been little research on hybrid learning in K-12 schools, so we have a lot to learn about what it takes to build out successful hybrid learning environments in these unusual circumstances. In the coming months of new methods of teaching and learning, we will see innovation and creative acceleration. This is the inflection point where we will see a proof of value for hybrid and remote learning. Yes, the shift to this environment is a hill to scale, but the choices we make today are changing education forever.