Hong Kong schools could resume face-to-face classes in phases by mid or late September at the earliest starting with half-day sessions, sources told the Post on Thursday, after the city’s education minister met school representatives to discuss arrangements. Senior secondary students and those beginning their first year in secondary schools are expected to be the first batch to resume lessons on campus. Primary and secondary school representatives also said Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung did not pin down any exact date for class resumption during the meetings. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, face-to-face lessons for Hong Kong’s 900,000 pupils at kindergartens, primary and secondary schools were suspended for four months before resuming in phases from late May. But a resurgence of cases in July prompted officials to ask schools to conduct online lessons until further notice. Students don’t want to continue their lessons online at home, as many people live in relatively small flats in the city Halina Poon, Hong Kong Subsidised Secondary Schools Council Local primary and secondary schools typically begin their new academic year in September, while many international schools had already launched classes in August. Two sources present at the meetings – two sessions for primary and secondary school heads – told the Post that education officials expected pupils in Form One, Five and Six in secondary schools to be the first batch back on campus when classes resume, while those in Form Two to Four would be in the second wave. Hong Kong secondary school placement exams in limbo amid Covid-19 Despite some school heads previously suggesting that senior secondary students could stay on campus for longer hours in the afternoon, a source said education officials had dismissed the idea during Thursday’s meeting. Education authorities were expected to make an announcement some two to three weeks before classes resumed, the sources said. School representatives had meanwhile suggested that older pupils in Primary Five and Six, as well as those starting primary school, could resume on-campus classes together with the first batch of secondary school students, according to Aided Primary School Heads Association honorary chairman Cheung Yung-pong, who was present at the meeting. For the 27,000 cross-border students, Hongkongers who live in mainland China and commute daily to the city for classes, most are expected not to be able to come in for the new school term, apart from those in senior secondary who were earlier exempted from mandatory quarantine to return to the city for lessons in June. Sources told the Post earlier this week that exam authorities were mulling holding next year’s university entrance Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams in late April, a month later than usual, while more school-based assessments and the speaking components of Chinese- and English-language tests might also be dropped. Education officials said during Thursday’s meeting that the exam body would make an announcement soon, as school representatives also urged authorities to come to a consensus earlier so they could better help students prepare. An Education Bureau spokesman said in a statement after the meeting that it would continue to pay close attention to the local health situation while seeking advice from medical experts, and would notify schools when a decision was being made. He added that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was also present at the meeting to express support for the city’s teachers for their work during the pandemic. Halina Poon Suk-han, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Subsidised Secondary Schools Council, said it would be ideal if classes could resume by September, provided the pandemic eased. “Students don’t want to continue their lessons online at home, as many people live in relatively small flats in the city. They also cheer up when they are able to meet their peers, to chat and give support to each other,” she said.