Keeping school safe and healthy for all

9-year-old Nathanael from Blangah Rise Primary School walks into school at 7.10am. In the past, he would have assembled with his classmates in the school hall, but since 5 Feb, he has been going directly to her classroom for the flag-raising ceremony as part of the social distancing measures for the COVID-19 situation. When he gets there, he sees that some of his friends are already taking their temperature with their oral digital thermometer, and he proceeds to take his temperature too. His teacher records his attendance and temperature in School Cockpit Mobile, an MOE-owned mobile application for attendance and temperature taking.

Nathanael and his friends will do a second temperature taking at 12.30pm. “The teachers want to make sure that we do not have a fever or flu symptoms so that viruses cannot spread and we can all be safe and well,” explains Nathanael.

Teachers have been using videos and infographics to educate students about COVID-19 and reminding them about the importance of washing their hands and not touching their faces. The students also accessed the just-in-time lesson package on COVID-19 on the Student Learning Space (SLS), an online learning platform. Nathanael said, “Our Science teacher showed us pictures of a coronavirus under a microscope. I went home and talked to my parents about how we can keep ourselves safe from the coronavirus, such as not touching live animals and washing our hands with soap.”

Nathanael is disappointed that the P3 SwimSafer Programme has been suspended as he had looked forward to it every Thursday. The P4 camp and P5 learning journey to the NEWater Visitor Centre have also been postponed. The National School Games have been suspended to reduce the risks of exposure from inter-mingling of students across schools and minimise exposure to crowds at external venues. “However, we are glad that P.E. lessons and CCAs will still carry on, including our favourite Floorball and Ultimate Frisbee in the afternoons!” remarks 12-year-old Zanphanie.

Recess timings have been shifted so that each level has a separate recess timing. The school had quickly worked out a new timetable so that recess times can be staggered to minimise the congregation of students in large numbers. Teachers lead the students to the washing points and ensure that they wash their hands with soap before eating. They do likewise before the students’ snack break and lunch. After eating, students are reminded to clean up after themselves. The students have assigned seating, washing points and toilet areas to minimise mingling across different levels.

“I wash my hands very regularly now. I can now do the 8 steps of washing my hands without looking at the poster that shows the steps!” says 11-year old Neharika.

As 92% of the Primary 1 students are in the SATS “Be Bright, Eat Right” Subscription Meal Programme, the SATS meals are brought to their classrooms at 9.30am. 7-year-old Luka exclaims, “It is very special because I get to eat with my friends in the classroom and my teachers serve us our food!”

At dismissal time, the teachers ensure that students do not congregate at the school gate. Lunch on remedial days has also been staggered, with the P6 students having an earlier lunch break. For students who go to the school-based Student Care Centre (SCC), the SCC staff have taken precautionary measures such as segregating the students by levels for lunch and tea break, as well as rest, homework and play time. 9-year-old Lionel shares, "At the Student Care Centre, we are now separated by levels. I got used to this new routine very quickly and know that our teachers care for us.”

Even the school bus company is playing their part by issuing bus captains a personal thermometer for them to take their temperature twice daily. They have been disinfecting the school buses more regularly, especially for touchpoints like grab poles, seats and windows. Each school bus will have a bottle of hand sanitizer for the bus captains and students to use.

At MOE Kindergarten and Kindergarten Care, measures have been taken to protect the youngest children in our midst. Flag-raising is carried out in the children’s classrooms. Travel declarations have been obtained for parents and caregivers. Ms Marina Ho, MK Centre Head, explained, “Young children in pre-school make use of their sense of touch to learn about things around them. To protect our children, we clean touched surfaces, toys and commonly shared items more frequently. We also constantly remind them not to share food, drinks and eating utensils with others.”

Throughout the school, the Operation Support Officers and contract cleaners have been adhering to the sanitation and hygiene advisory from NEA. Frequently touched points such as handrails, door knobs and canteen tables and chairs are disinfected regularly. For toilets, the cleaners have also stepped up frequently touched areas such as water taps, door/towel/cistern handles, toilet bowls and their seats and cover flaps, wash basins, door knobs, buttons and switches. They check the toilets and ensure adequate supply of toilet paper and liquid soap at all times. The playground is also disinfected regularly. Mdm Rozinah Binti Shamsuddin, one of the school’s Operation Support Officers, has ensured that a bottle of hand soap is placed in every classroom. She says, “Even though I am busier, I am happy to do all these because I am concerned about the children. We can prevent this virus from spreading though proper hygiene and cleaning the school thoroughly. I want the children to be well.”

At the school gate, Security Officers have played their part by conducting temperature taking and visual screening for respiratory/flu-like symptoms for all visitors and obtaining their travel declarations. They record contact details of the visitors to facilitate contact tracing if needed.

As the school commemorates Total Defence Day on 15 Feb, staff and students are reminded that everyone has a part to play in practising good personal hygiene, being responsible and empathetic, and staying united as a nation. The students are preparing posters and cards for the frontliners, including healthcare workers and public transport workers who are working hard to keep Singapore running. They learn that as part of our psychological defence, we should not circulate rumours online, or hoard facemasks or food. As PM Lee Hsien Loong has urged us, let us stay united and resolute in this new coronavirus outbreak. This is what it means to be Singaporean. This is who we are.”