Schools in HCMC want students to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before reopening. As the southern metropolis begins to relax pandemic restrictions, plans to reopen schools are also under consideration.
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While many schools are confident of meeting safety criteria for reopening, they think students should be vaccinated to be absolutely sure.
Do Dinh Dao, principal of the Nguyen Huu Tho High School in District 4, said Tuesday the school could meet up to nine of the 10 safety criteria proposed in a draft plan by the city Department of Education and Training.
They include teachers having Covid-19 green passes, limiting gatherings, wearing masks, and disinfection.
A school can reopen if it meets at least six criteria, according to the proposal.
Dao said students should also be fully vaccinated.”Unvaccinated students coming to school will cause worry for themselves, parents and the school.”
The department had in August urged the city administration to vaccinate children aged 12-18 so they could “focus on studying” during the second term.
Dao said if such a plan could be speeded up, schools would be able to reopen soon.
Huynh Thanh Phu, principal of Nguyen Du High School in District 10, said reopening schools before students are vaccinated is unsafe and poses infection risks.
“Parents cannot feel reassured knowing their children have not been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
“According to medical recommendations, vaccination only reduces the chance of infection and death, and does not provide absolute immunity, especially against the Delta variant. As such, unvaccinated students in classrooms could be the most likely sources of infection, if not potential hotspots.”
While reopening schools is essential for the city to recover, vaccination remains the decisive, long-term factor in winning the coronavirus fight, and without it, other safety measures just do not work as well as they should, he added.
Tran Van Minh, deputy principal of Dao Duy Anh Secondary High School in Tan Phu District, said many students and teachers are currently stuck outside Ho Chi Minh City.
Due to insufficient vaccination rates in their areas, many are yet to be vaccinated, he said.
“The requirement that teachers are fully vaccinated can be fulfilled once they return to Ho Chi Minh City. What matters now is that students must also be fully vaccinated for parents to feel assured when their children return to the city to study.”
He said each grade could resume at a different time to prevent large gatherings.
Several schools have raised a concern about a particular safety requirement for reopening: that the number of students and teachers present at a time must be limited.
To satisfy this, schools would need to either separate the students or stagger classes.
An unnamed high school official said classes could be staggered, but then teachers would have double the work. “The question is where we get the money to pay the teachers.”
Some schools have thought of dividing classes into two, one studying online and the other in classrooms. Another solution would be to divide classes into two rooms next to each other and have teachers teach both simultaneously.
Kindergartens feared the safety requirement of being at least a meter apart would be difficult to implement with such young children.
Ho Chi Minh City, epicenter of the fourth coronavirus wave, now has over 1.3 million high school students studying online.
Over 340,000 kindergarteners remain at home.