SINGAPORE: Less than 10 per cent of students and staff across all schools have been placed on a leave of absence or given a stay-home notice, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Sunday (Mar 22).

This includes students and staff across all schools, including special education (SPED) schools and MOE kindergartens, said MOE’s director of schools Liew Wei Li in response to CNA queries.

MOE and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced last Thursday that all students and school staff members returning from travel during the March school holidays will have to take a 14-day leave of absence.

All Singaporeans, permanent residents, long-term pass holders and short-term visitors entering Singapore from 11.59pm last Friday will also have to serve a 14-day stay-home notice. 

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung noted in a Facebook post on Thursday that “thousands of our students and their families have travelled overseas”.

Ms Liew said the numbers of affected staff and students on leave of absence or stay-home notice are “manageable”.

“Based on the travel declarations of students and staff prior to the start of the March school holidays, schools will contact the parents of the affected students, as well as affected staff, to inform them directly about the leave of absence,” she added.

While manpower may be affected by teachers going on leave of absence or serving their stay-home notice, schools will make the “necessary adjustments” to ensure classes can continue “uninterrupted”, Ms Liew said, adding that this would involve hiring more relief teachers and “adapting timetables”.

“MOE will also provide all necessary support to schools, including deploying teachers from other parts of the education service to schools for up to two weeks where needed,” she said.

Students staying at home will continue with their lessons through Home-Based Learning, facilitated by schools through a variety of ways that best suit the students’ needs, added Ms Liew.

They can use the Student Learning Space, which contains educational materials and resources accessible to all teachers and students. Teachers can also issue assignments to students using textbooks and workbooks, email them materials and send them hardcopy packages.

READ: ‘One of us needs to be at home’: Parents prepared to take leave or work from home to care for children on leave of absence

ALLOW DAILY ACTIVITIES TO GO ON

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Mr Ong addressed parents’ and students’ concerns about schools reopening.

“Actually, part of the reason for the tougher border measures is to ensure we keep Singapore as safe as possible, so that daily activities, like going to work, eating out and attending school, can go on,” he wrote.

Noting that the young are less susceptible to the virus, he said that it “may not be a bad idea” to spend the bulk of their day in school with classmates who are “less susceptible to the virus than adults”.

Closing schools would also “disrupt many lives”, especially for working parents who have no domestic help and limited childcare options.

“We are particularly concerned about parents who are healthcare workers and providers of essential services,” he said.

He also highlighted the “many significant additional precautionary measures” for schools. 

READ: Schools remain safe places for children, additional precautionary measures implemented: Ong Ye Kung

Other than the leave of absences  and stay-home notices, students will only spend their time with their class and their Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) groups. But given that CCA is suspended for two weeks, students will only interact with classmates, he said.

Students who are feeling unwell will be sent to an isolation room or sent home, Mr Ong added.

“In class, students will sit apart, just like during exams. Teachers and students will continue to upkeep the highest standards of hygiene. There is constant supervision (for the younger students) and reminders for all students to wash their hands properly and regularly, and avoid touching their faces,” he said.

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