Schools and parents prepare for campus reopening
The Shanghai Education Commission has announced that graduating students at middle and high schools can return to campuses on April 27, and local schools are preparing to resume campus education under strict epidemic control measures.
At the Chunshen Campus of Xinsong Middle School in Minhang District, a drill has been carried out to test its primary plan for reopening, which was also attended and observed by officials from other schools that are making similar plans. Over 100 faculty members from the schools and 10 parent volunteers participated in the event.
“Please wear masks, keep 1 meter from each other and go through the infrared thermographic camera one by one,” a loudspeaker at the gate of the school repeated again and again as “students,” played by faculty from the schools, lined up on the sidewalk in front of the gate.
On the ground, yellow lines marked the distance “students” should keep from each other. Before they were allowed into the campus, all security guards and teachers in charge of the morning screenings had their temperatures taken, sanitized their hands and put on gloves. Parent volunteers, who also had their temperatures measured, held signs with welcoming and instructive words to guide participants through the entrance procedures.
When it was time for “students” to enter the campus, they walked forward and submitted their personal information and health records into a box before going through the infrared thermographic camera.
Those with normal temperatures were allowed to head to their classrooms, where they had to sanitize their hands and had their temperatures checked again and registered by head teachers before entering.
About 120 “students” passed the morning screening procedures. In the classrooms, the head teachers explained the school’s epidemic control measures to the “students” in the first class. Seats had been rearranged to ensure pupils keep safe distance from each other. All “students” were required to wear masks at all times when in classrooms. Teachers also told them to open the windows for ventilation three times a day, at least 30 minutes each time.
On each desk was a book about self protection against the coronavirus and on blackboards were tips for students, asking them to disinfect their hands before dining and not to take off their masks randomly, pass items or gather when using toilets.
The drill included an emergency scenario where a student was found with a temperature higher than 37.3 Celsius degrees during the morning screening. He was then given another mask to wear and guided into a temporary observation zone near the school gate.
A health teacher, named Ma, in protective gear, asked him to rest and checked his temperature again. When she saw his temperature fall below 37.3 degrees, she allowed him to go to the classroom.
“In spring and summer, some students may show a high temperature after walking to the school,” said Ma. “A second check is necessary.”
According to the school’s plan, if a student’s temperature is still high in the second check, parents or disease control officials will be called to send them to hospital for treatment, based on whether they had been in key affected areas or had contact with confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases.
During the classes, another emergency scenario happened when a student developed a fever and vomited. His head teacher, named Deng, immediately evacuated other “students” to the corridor. They were later guided to a temporary classroom by another teacher.
Deng put on gloves, covered the vomit with a towel and called the health teacher, who then came to take the student to an observation room and put a notice in front of the room to alert other faculty and students.
A cleaner also rushed to disinfect the classroom immediately and close the nearby toilet.
In the observation room, the health teacher checked the student’s temperature and health condition carefully and asked him about his travel history and whether he had contact with confirmed or suspected cases in the past 14 days.
“If he had not been in key affected areas and had no contact with confirmed or suspected cases, we would call his parents to take him back home,” said the health teacher. “But if he had, we would call the ambulance to take him to hospital and report the case to the disease control center and education bureau.”
In the dining session, canteen staff delivered packed food to the classrooms, and the teachers asked all “students” to wash their hands in turn. When they come back, they can take their food, sit down and take off their masks to have lunch. They were asked not to talk when dining. And after having lunch, they were asked to put on their masks first and then put the tableware back to the cart, clean the table and wash their hands again.
The school has also stocked up on masks for students and faculty. The drill also showed how a student can apply for a mask and dispose a used one in the correct way.
When school time was over, the “students” were guided to leave the campus class by class and told to go home directly without gathering. After they left, cleaners disinfected all the classrooms and other public areas before the drill ended.
“The health and security of students is our top priority and we’ve discussed organization of campus activities and emergency management several times. Now we put our plan into practice to see whether there are any problems,” said Zhang Yi, principal of the school. “Officials from the district education bureau, disease control center, market supervision team, food administration office and other departments have also observed the drill and given us some advice for improvement. We will work out a new plan and try it out again before students come back.”
Zhang said the school had about 600 graduating students in 18 classes on its two campuses.
“As only graduating students, or the ninth graders, will come back on April 27, we will have enough spare classrooms to divide each class into two rooms for lunch to prevent cross infection,” she said. “But when all the students come back, we will have no spare room to do so.”
Mei Jiali, principal of Beiqiao Middle School who also observed the drill at Xinsong, said it was helpful for her and her colleagues to improve their own plans.
She said the school had begun communicating with parents for preparation of graduating students’ return.
“The city’s education commission required all students returning from overseas to take nucleic acid tests before returning to school, but luckily we’ve found all our students are in Shanghai now,” said Mei. “But we ask parents to report their children’s temperature every day. Those with fever will be asked to stay at home.”
Mei said her school had prepared more than 10,000 masks, which was enough for its students and faculty to use for more than two weeks even if each of them used two masks a day.
All its teachers will take part in epidemic control efforts after students return and a drill will be organized before the school reopens.
“There are only about 100 graduating students in four classes in our school, so we don’t have to separate them into different classrooms for lunch,” she said. “But they will not be able to visit different classrooms for respective optional courses as before. Instead, each class will stay in one classroom for all the courses except PE to make epidemic control easier and prevent more complicated cross infection. We are making plans for the new arrangements now.”
The Luwan Senior High School in Huangpu District said it would organize the drill when students and faculty returned.
Cao Yiping, vice principal of the school and a math teacher for graduating students, told Shanghai Daily that most of its faculty and students are in Shanghai now and only several foreign teachers are abroad, who will continue to teach online after the school resumes campus teaching.
The school also has more than 30 boarding students whose homes are far away.
“We will encourage them to live at home at this special time,” said Cao. “We are doing surveys now to learn how many will need to live on campus and we’ll work out plans for them accordingly.”
Online studying at home
As all students in the city have been taking classes online since March 2, schools said they will arrange the teaching on campus according to the assessment results of students' performance in online learning.
Li Xiang, an English teacher and the head teacher of a graduating class at Xinsong, said he was anxious at first when he learned that he had to teach his students online instead of face to face.
“We didn’t know how the classes would be organized and were not sure whether we can use the multimedia tools well,” he said. “But after receiving training and seeing the high quality of the courses recorded by excellent teachers across the city under guidance of the city’s education commission, I began to feel at ease."
Li said a small portion of students did show mood fluctuations after taking classes online for such a long time.
“They showed curiosity towards online learning at first with high attendance rate and active interaction,” he said. “But gradually, some became late or even absent for classes and some did not finish homework completely. It’s understandable as they face the pressure of graduation exams and challenges brought by the change of teaching forms. Meanwhile, they lack supervision from teachers and catharsis via physical exercises.”
Li said parents were more anxious than students and had kept asking when the school would resume normal classes.
“They are worried about the negative effect of exposure to digital devices and whether children will use the devices for games or other things besides study,” he said. “Also, the middle school graduating students are at puberty and some are rebellious. When students are studying at home, parents somehow have to play part the role of the teachers to urge children to take classes and do homework, which might lead to tension in parent-child relationships in some families.”
Cao also said parents of his students were nervous as their children faced the university entrance exam, regarded as one of the most important exams in China.
He said the school had organized online meetings for parents to communicate with children and for students to make career and life plans.
“We’ve told the parents not to talk too much about studies with children and leave it to teachers, who are more professional in handling the topic,” he said. “For the students, I always tell them that the exam is an important step but also a small step in their life. There will be plenty of opportunities in the future to remedy the regrets if they failed it. Many people who failed the exam have become successful in their career.”
As both the high school and university entrance exams have been postponed, schools say they will adjust their teaching plans accordingly.
Yuan Mingzhao, the father of a graduating student at Luwan Senior High School, said he was glad to see the school will reopen.
“The teachers have worked hard online in the past month. I think they’ve done a great job and the online classes are of high quality,” he said. “And my son has more time for study at home, as it saves time from the daily commute. Meanwhile, he is a member of the class committee and has to spend some time on class affairs when at school.”
But he said he still prefer his son to study at school.
“I will feel more assured when he is supervised by teachers and the classroom has a group effect to push him to study hard,” he said.
Yuan said he would drive his son between the school and home to reduce risk of exposure to the virus and the family has prepared more than 100 masks for him.
Ji Yuecen, a graduating student of the High School Affiliated to Shanghai Theater Academy, said she is used to studying at home.
“It’s more quiet at home as I would not be disturbed by classmates and class affairs,” she told Shanghai Daily. “Meanwhile, when staying at home, I can save the daily commute time for sleep and reviewing.”
According to Ji, she has to arrive at school before 7:30am during normal school days, but during the pandemic, the online class begins at 8am.
She said she was glad that the university entrance exam will be postponed by a month to early July.
“I will apply for artistic universities as I wish to become a screen writer. The artistic universities have canceled campus tests this year and will admit students according to applicants’ scores in the united university entrance exam,” she said. “I had been focusing on preparing for the campus test previously and the postponement will give me more time to prepare for the united exam.”
Liu, the mother of a middle-school graduating student, said she has begun to help her daughter adjust her timetable and internal clock so that she can adapt to school hours after resuming classes offline.
“She now gets up at 7:30am and goes to bed after 11:30pm,” she said. “But she has to get up at 6am and goes to bed at 11pm at ordinary school days.”
Meanwhile, Liu has bought hundreds of masks and some hand sanitizer for her daughter and has been helping the girl develop awareness of wearing masks and washing hands regularly as she has been staying at home for three months since the epidemic broke out.
“I have told her not to be too intimate with her classmates and not to rub eyes, touch her face or nose,” she said. “I’ve also asked her to wipe the desk and chair with disinfecting wipe and change masks twice a day.”
“As for studies, I think she only has to follow the instruction of the teachers, who I think are very responsible,” she added. “I’m glad that the high school entrance exam will be held in late June, earlier than I had expected. I thought it would be in the middle of July, which is too hot in Shanghai and not a good season for exam.”