The Department of Basic Education has gazetted amended regulations on new dates for the reopening of schools, after institutions had to close a week ago.
The amended regulations include the new dates for pupils' phased return as well as guidelines for parents who still wish to keep their children home.
All public schools were forced to shut their doors after the Cabinet decided on a four-week break from 27 July, following concerns about rising Covid-19 infections in the country. Among those who raised concerns about cases spewing into schools were teachers' unions.
According to the new regulations which Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga released on Sunday, pupils in Grades R, 1, 2, 3, 4,6,9,10 and Grade 11 will return to school on 24 August.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the break about a week ago, he said the closure would run from 27 July until 24 August - but with exceptions. Grade 12 pupils only had a week-long break until 3 August and Grade 7 pupils were given a two-week break until 10 August.
Schools catering for pupils who have severe intellectual disabilities (SID) will also be able to welcome pupils in Grades 1, 2, 3 and their final year from 24 August.
The last batch of pupils in Grades 5 and 8 as well as those who have severe intellectual disabilities in Grades 4 and 5, will return on 31 August.
The regulations state that schools should continue to practise physical distancing and roll out timetable models to ensure there is no overcrowding.
All public schools which were permitted to deviate from the phased return prior to the closure on 27 July, will be allowed to continue with the process without having to notify the head of department again. New schools that want to take the same route can apply to the head of department.
The regulations also stipulate that all officials will be expected to return on 17 August.
The regulations also state that:
The principal and the school management team must determine and implement a rotational leave plan to ensure that the principal and each member of the school management team is allowed a five-day break, at least, during the first three weeks of the break.
Parents, caregivers or designated family members who choose not to send their children to school are advised to apply through the school the pupil attends and will be required to fill in a form to state reasons.
Those opting for homeschooling will be expected to comply with the legal requirements in Section 51 of the South African Schools Act.
The regulations also guide parents to inform the school in cases where a pupil self-isolates or is quarantined due to contact with a person who tested positive for Covid-19. They also provide guidance on steps to take when a pupil tests positive.
"Every act done or decision made by the minister, the head of department, a principal, the school management team, or officials before the commencement of these directions, that would have been lawful and valid if these directions had been in force at the time when it was done, is hereby validated and declared to have been lawfully and validly done by the minister, the head of department, a principal, the school management team or officials."
On Sunday, the department announced the revised school calendar.
The revised dates indicate that the school year for pupils in Grades R to 11 will be concluded on 15 December, and the Grade 12 examinations will be completed by the same date.
The marking of the matric exams is expected to be concluded on 22 January and results are expected to be released on 23 February 2021.