Schools will resume on-site learning in November, provided that sufficient vaccines are made available for students next month, the Education Ministry has said.
Education Minister Treenuch Thienthong said on Monday the decision to reopen on-site classrooms in November came from lessons learned from conducting online and on-air studies during the pandemic.
Speaking at a press conference at the ministry attended by senior education and disease control officials, Ms Treenuch said the ministry consulted with the public health and the interior ministries before setting the Nov 1 target for school reopening. However, a return to class depends on the vaccine rollout, said Ms Treenuch who added that Pfizer vaccine jabs will be offered next month to students aged 12-17.
The Pfizer vaccine will be offered to 4.5 million students generally from Mathayom 4-6 (grades 10 to 12). The jabs will also be offered to those studying in por wor chor (vocational certificate) and por wor sor (high vocational certificate) programmes at vocational institutes, which are both state and privately run.
Also eligible for the vaccine are students enrolled in religious, science and border police schools and educational establishments not run by the Education Ministry.
Students, 18 years and older, will also be eligible for vaccination.
The Education Ministry said the inoculations will be provided only if parents give their consent. The jabs will be distributed first to students in the dark-red zones hardest hit by the pandemic, including Bangkok.
Ms Treenuch said the goal was to roll out the first doses to students within the next month.
"Vaccination will need to proceed quickly," the education minister said. "The Public Health Ministry will map out a vaccination plan while the Education Ministry will pass information about the necessity and possible side effects of the inoculation to parents."
Familiarising parents about young people and immunisation will hopefully convince them to sign their children up for vaccination. Consent forms will be offered to parents which should be returned before the end of this month, Ms Treenuch said.
"We will be living with Covid-19 and it must be done in a way that does not cause further chaos to our students' education," she said.
However, the minister admitted not all schools will be ready for on-site reopening come Nov 1. The resumption of classes must take into consideration the readiness of schools, parents and the infection situation in communities.
Altogether there are 15,465 schools and educational institutes in the 29 dark-red zone provinces.
So far, 70% of teachers nationwide have received a vaccine jab. All employees at schools will also be vaccinated.
Amporn Pinasa, secretary-general of the Office of the Basic Education Commission, said unvaccinated students can attend on-site classes although they will be subject to a more rigorous health screening process than vaccinated students.
Meanwhile, Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said two million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive this month and another two million doses every week throughout next month. He expected that 4.5 million students will receive their first doses next month, according to plan.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for vaccinating young people.