The government said local schools will have to begin their summer breaks no later than March 17, so as to free up their campuses for anti-epidemic work, but schools that offer non-local curriculum will be allowed to continue online classes as scheduled.
In announcing the arrangements on Monday, Education Secretary Kevin Yeung said pupils taking non-local exams can also return to campus for assessments if needed.
Yeung said there are some "practical difficulties" for private institutions offering non-local curriculum to follow the revised timetable due to their school calendars.
"In all the set-up, our main concern is always the benefit of the students or the interest of the students. For international schools, if students could not have meaningful lessons in July or August, and we force them to take leave in March and April, we are effectively taking away their learning hours," he said.
"But of course, if some international schools, or some local schools offering non-local curriculum, they could make changes to their school year or their calendar, to change some of their holidays to summer break from July back to March, we always welcome, and we encourage them to do that."
As for the rest, including kindergartens, primary, and secondary schools, their summer break will start between March 7 and 17 depending on their preparation.
Yeung said he hopes in-person classes can resume after Easter, adding the academic year will end in August, and the new school year will kick off in September as usual.
The education chief also stressed that authorities still plan to hold university entrance exams as scheduled from April 22 but will shorten the exam period from four weeks to three, with candidates being required to undergo rapid antigen tests before each test.
In case the Covid outbreak worsens, Yeung reassured the public that that there are contingency plans to postpone the exams to mid-May, or even June.
"It's not a simple calculation of all the factors. We have to consider the impact of different factors, as well as the need of the students to apply for universities both in Hong Kong and overseas," he said.
In addition, Yeung announced that the government is offering a one-off anti-epidemic subsidy for schools totalling HK$62 million. Each school can receive up to HK$37,500.