Nearly 30 schools in Dubai will offer distance learning starting Monday, January 3, 2022. These include 26 out of 28 GEMS schools, the country's biggest private education group.

This comes as staff increasingly produce Covid-positive reports after testing and before returning for the new semester after the winter break. Some declare they have been in close contact with those with the virus, warranting a mandatory quarantine period.

Headteachers explain it's a rapidly evolving situation with some schools switching to online mode for a couple of days to even up to a week.

Elmarie Venter, chief operations officer, Gems Education, said the decision was taken due to "rising numbers of positive Covid-19 test results and staff who are 'close contacts'".

The temporary shift to distance learning is being done with the "full support" of Dubai's education regulator, Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

"Gems Education schools in Dubai are looking forward to welcoming back our students for the start of a new semester tomorrow … We expect to return to full in-class learning in all our schools very shortly and will continue to strictly adhere to all national guidelines," Venter added.

Other schools shifting to the online mode temporarily include Springdales School, Victory Heights Primary School, Kent College Dubai and Dubai English Speaking School and College (DESSC).

Kent College Dubai has also sent a note to parents, informing them classes will be hosted remotely for five days.

"Over the past few days, we have received messages from a number of our staff and parents who are returning from travel and also those who have stayed in Dubai, to let us know that they have either tested positive with Covid-19 or are close contacts with someone who has tested positive," the notice read.

"Due to the high number of cases, we are unable to cover all staff who are going to be absent. After careful review, we have reached the conclusion that for at least the first 5 days of this term, we will move to distance learning in all phases of the school. We will continue to review this situation."

Schools in Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah will receive students for in-person classes for the new academic term, while those in Abu Dhabi and Umm Al Quwain will host online classes as a Covid safety measure.

The KHDA has introduced new Covid safety restrictions for the first two weeks. As a result, group classes, extracurricular activities, assemblies and school trips will be suspended during this period. Canteens will remain closed as well.

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