SCHOOLS will once again open in a phased approach next year with only those in Form Four this year, returning on 4 January to finish writing their remaining papers.

Other pupils will only return to class in another phased approach with some classes, especially Form One expected to start school as late as February 2021.

Those going into Form One, who are Grade Seven this year, started writing, public examinations last week on Thursday and will only finish on 17 December.

Those writing Ordinary level examinations will have some of their papers overlapping into early next year.

Other non-examination classes will close this term on 18 December and initially the Government had indicated that schools will then reopen on 4 January 2021.

However, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Director of Communications, Taungana Ndoro said that the ministry will employ the same method of phased opening of schools next year as a way of decongesting and further implementing the Standard Operation Procedures.

He said only pupils who have not finished writing their public examinations will return on 4 January to finish the papers while phased dates for other classes will be announced in due course.

“We are opening schools on January 4 2021 to allow the Ordinary Level candidates to finish their examinations. Other returning pupils will have to come in February most probably after the Form 4 students finish their examinations,” he said.

Ndoro said Grade Seven results will be released early next year, but definitely before 31 January.

This comes as the ministry will tomorrow open the online application platform for Form One pupils wishing to be enrolled into boarding schools next year.

The Government introduced the Form One online application in 2016 for boarding schools to plug profiteering by some schools who were making parents pay for entrance tests.

Most schools were now conducting their own assessments for pupils and make them sit for entrance tests after paying money, rendering Grade Seven examinations irrelevant.

Some schools would call many prospective pupils for interviews when they could only enrol a few classes.

“We expect the Grade 7 results to be out before January 31. The Form 1 pupils will enrol after the Ordinary level candidates have finished their examinations. The idea is to continue decongesting our schools and following the Standards Operation Procedures amid the Covid-19 pandemic. We will have a phased schools reopening,” said Ndoro.

According to a circular released last week by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, the online platform will run from tomorrow to 31 January.

Under the method, pupils have to apply through the Electronic Ministry’s Application Platform (EMAP) where an applicant is allowed to place three applications at each given time although there is room for the upward review of the number of applications accepted until the closing date.

“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education will be launching online the Electronic Ministry’s Application Platform (EMAP) for Form 1 boarding place enrolment from Monday 7th of December to January 31 2021.

An applicant is allowed to have three maximum active applications at any given time in order to decongest traffic on the platform. The schools will notify the successful applicants through sms. Once offered a place by a school an applicant can decline it and once declined a place cannot be reclaimed back.

The enrolment will start after the official publication of the 2020 Grade 7 Zimsec results,” reads a statement from the ministry.

This year, following premature closure of schools in March as a preventive measure against Covid-19, the Government introduced a phased approached to schools opening where Phase One of the reopening was on 28 September and was meant for the Grade 7s, Forms 4 and Upper Sixth followed by Grade 6, Form 3 and 5s on 26 October under the second phase.

In Phase Three, schools opened on 9 November 2020 with the rest of the learners which covered ECD A and B, grade 1,2,3,4,5 and Forms 1 and 2.

However, an industrial action by most teachers affected learning resulting in the Government taking a decision to postpone some of the public examinations into next year.

Reopening of schools were, however, affected when about 300 schoolchildren at various schools contracted the virus.

Ndoro said the disease has been contained at most schools with 50 percent recoveries recorded in the past few weeks.

The hardest hit school was John Tallach High in Ntabazinduna, Matabeleland North Province where about 185 pupils and teachers tested positive. However, the situation has since been contained.