School is back in session, but not for everyone
Reopening of schools from June 2, with priority for graduating cohorts
Schools will reopen from June 2 as Singapore exits the circuit breaker period, but not all students will make a full return.
Priority will be given to graduating cohorts, such as Primary 6 pupils, and Secondary 4 and 5 students, while the rest of the levels will alternate between having lessons in school and home-based learning.
The reopening of schools, along with the lifting of several other restrictions, were announced by the multi-ministry task force yesterday as Singapore prepares to move into Phase 1 after the circuit breaker, where some restrictions will be lifted.
Businesses that operate in low-risk settings, such as most manufacturing companies, will be permitted to resume, and certain household visits will be allowed.
Speaking at a press conference, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, co-chair of the task force, said the number of Covid-19 cases in the community has fallen to just a handful over the past week, and the situation in the dormitories has also stabilised.
He said: "As we begin to resume more activities, we do expect to see a rise in daily cases. The key is to detect these cases and contain them quickly, so as to prevent a sharp rise in the number of cases or the emergence of a large cluster."
He added that Singapore will move to Phase 2, where more measures will be eased, if the situation remains under control. Phase 3 will follow, when most activities would be allowed to resume, albeit with a limit on the size of gatherings.
It will be a new normal, until an effective vaccine or treatment is available.
From June 2, when the third term of school begins, graduating students in primary and secondary schools will attend school from Monday to Friday as per usual.
Students in other cohorts, or those in Primary 1 to 5 and Sec 1 to 3, will rotate weekly between home-based learning and lessons in school.
Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung said: "We need to support parents whose children need a high level of care... (the first) priority group are the special education schools, because the parents need the support.
"(The second) priority group are the graduating cohorts... I know these students and their parents are getting a lot more anxious, and we want these students to come back on a daily basis... because the national examinations are coming."
Mr Ong added that the new schedule will suit the working patterns of parents better as some workplaces rotate their staff to work from home on a weekly basis.
The Assumption Pathway School and NorthLight School, as well as special education schools, will also stagger their return from June 2 and allow all students to be back in school by June 8.
The Ministry of Education said students and staff are required to wear masks or face shields while in school, except during physical education lessons.
Intermingling across classes and levels will be minimised, and arrival, dismissal and recess times will be staggered.
Junior colleges and Millennia Institute will have to make arrangements so that only half of the student body will be back in school at any one time.
For polytechnics, lectures and tutorials will remain online, and students will return primarily for practical and lab classes.
Institute of Technical Education students will rotate weekly between online and on-campus lessons, and students will return primarily for practical and lab sessions.
Pre-schools will also resume services from June 2, in stages.
Mr Ong said 29 students have been infected with Covid-19 so far - the majority of them getting the virus from their family members.
While most parents welcome the new measures as their children can resume social interaction and catch up with school work properly, they are also worried about safe distancing.
Madam Nethi Anuradha, a housewife who has a son in Primary 6 and another in junior college, said: "For kids taking public transport, they will come into contact with people of all ages and I am not sure if there will be social distancing."
Others also expressed concern over the children having to don masks for long periods.
"As adults, we struggle to wear masks for a short period of time, so I am worried how my kids are going to survive wearing masks the whole day," said Madam Skenus Rose, who has a son in Primary 6 and a daughter in Sec 2.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: HARSHITHA SMRUTHI L. KANDAKUMAR