ESF school teachers to undergo regular Covid-19 tests to allow full resumption of in-person classes

  • English Schools Foundation will pay for ‘spit tests’ for staff at its 22 institutions to meet Education Bureau requirements
  • Only around 10 per cent of Hong Kong’s 2,000-plus schools have fully resumed offline classes, or made plans to do so

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ESF staff will be tested fortnightly.

Thousands of teachers and other staff at English Schools Foundation schools will undergo regular Covid-19 screening from this week. Schools need to do this to meet requirements set by education authorities to fully resume in-person classes.

But no exact date has yet been set for the full resumption of half-day classes at the 22 kindergartens and schools run by the ESF, Hong Kong’s biggest international school group.

ESF has about 3,000 staff members and more than 18,000 students in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong students return to the classroom in limited numbers after months of home study

“In ESF, we all share a common desire to have every one of our students back in the classroom every day,” the foundation’s chief executive Belinda Greer said in a letter to staff on Thursday.

The foundation said it would pay for “spit test” kits which would be distributed among teachers through a private vendor to “ensure confidentiality and safeguard personal details”. Teachers would carry out the virus tests at home every two weeks and bring the kits into school for sample collection.

The letter further said teachers who had concerns about being tested should speak to their school principals as soon as possible for “support or professional counselling”.

Kindergarten teachers will be the first ones to be screened, starting this week, followed by their colleagues in primary and secondary schools.

The move came after more than 200 parents demanded in a letter to the ESF management that schools start testing all teachers and staff regularly for the full resumption of face-to-face classes in the coming weeks.

ESF schools, like most other city schools, have been bringing back up to one-third of the total student population on a half-day basis since the Chinese New Year holiday ended on February 22.

ESF schools will not change their practices under national security law

Even though authorities said schools which could get all staff tested fortnightly might bring back all students on campus, few schools have so far opted for that amid administrative difficulties and concerns from some principals and teachers.

Official figures as of last Friday showed only about 200 of the city’s more than 2,000 schools were either planning for a full resumption or had already done so, most of them kindergartens.

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