September 26, 2020

A (fictitious) day in the school year of the coronavirus – La Provincia


The González Talavera family lives in one of the cities of the Canary Islands. The two little ones, Martina (12 years old) and Félix (8) started school six weeks ago. Nothing more and nothing less than him expected course 2020-2021; that of the peculiar face-to-face teaching, that of waiting for the covid-19 vaccine, the one that follows that virtual quarter in which everyone, students, teachers and parents in the country, had to adapt education to the whims of the pandemic coming from the East. This is the fictional account of any given day at school, how things are planned if there is no new confinement; with all its peculiarities, where everything changes so that the most important thing remains: the best possible training for future generations. Of course, with a good part of the important decisions in the hands of the directors of the centers, which at the end of the month must present a plan detailing how they will organize groups and spaces. Everything, with the fragility typical of the pandemic and with the fear of new infections. And in such a volatile environment as a school.

It is Tuesday, October 20, 2020 and the new habits are already beginning to take hold. José and Juana got up at seven, slightly earlier than last year. He shaves while she showers. If the normal thing was to wake the little ones at 7.30 am, now they are separated from the sheets a quarter of an hour earlier, since the school, with about 700 students, has established entry shifts to avoid crowds. Felix enters at 8.35 am and Martina, 15 minutes later. Before they all arrived at nine in a kind of childhood tsunami, but now, the school, following the indications of the Ministry of Education, has spaced the access half an hour. To fluff the matter, and regardless of the schedules, doors that had been in disuse for a long time have been opened and the support of the local police has been requested to prevent those who bring children by car from congesting the area. A gear in which everyone is involved: the educational community, families and municipalities.

Mom and dad out

Parents, who previously could access school without problem, now stay outside to prevent the virus, in the event that there is an infected adult, from entering the educational center. They only enter to hold a meeting with a tutor or to participate, as experts in a subject, in a class. Always, of course, with the mask and keeping the required meter and a half. A change in habits that has not been easy to implement, especially in the smaller classes, where it is usual for Mom and Dad to fire the tadpole at the door of the class. Other larger cabbages, which use the courtyard as a parking lot for families, have had to carry out an arduous educational campaign not without criticism from some families who have seen their morning logistics very complicated.

Martina has a friend with three little brothers. They all go to the same school. For these cases with the entry so widely spaced in the same family nucleus, the school has enabled a place of permanence so that the family does not have to wait. In this space, the little ones wear a mask. And they don’t take it off until a teacher leaves them in their class.

Constant protection

All students, in fact, enter the school with their masks on. Also teachers and other professionals -cleaning, pedagogical support, administration or kitchen-, who, where appropriate, have at their disposal in the center material to isolate themselves from the coronavirus. It is the number 1 rule of the new era: in the common rooms of students in the school centers, absolute protection and safety distance, and whenever possible, thorough cleaning of the hands.

Félix and Martina are assigned a stable education group, the lifelong class, but with the peculiarity that now they are much tighter units than usual, reducing, as far as possible, the maximum ratio of the previous courses (or at least, that is the promise, without increasing it), and without direct contact with the rest of the groups in order to control and contain the infections. In that classroom they can take off the mask. Around 10, Felix, who has rushed to school, asks to go to the bathroom. They give him permission, but with the reminder that he has to cover his face whenever he leaves class. In the hallway he meets Matías, from the next class, who has also come out with his face covered so that the tutor can see a tummy ache. Martina has English at 11.00. It is taught by Collin, a native teacher who runs various courses. As he does not have a stable group assigned, this Irishman from Cork has to teach with the mask and keeping 1.5 meters of distance with the children.

Time to eat. The normal thing was a man for himself in a huge dining room with two shifts: first the little ones, then the older ones. Now everything is much more surgical, more calculated. The students of each stable educational group eat together, separated from the rest of the units. The management has decided to do three shifts and set up an adjoining room to ensure that students do not mix.

It’s Tuesday and Felix plays chess at noon. A monitor with a mask comes to pick him up in the dining room. During the lesson, which he shares with children from other classes, he covers his face. Then everyone to the patio. Ideally, children in the same class should play together. But since that is impossible, both Martina and Félix, if they get closer than five feet to their friends from other groups, they put on the mask. Uncomfortable, but it is what it is. At the exit to the morning playground, in fact, the school has decided to establish batches to avoid that they all coincide at the same time. The educational authorities of the country have already said: “We no longer talk about the time in the yard, but about the hours in the yard.”

Outdoor exercise

Martina has physical education after eating. Although the school has a pavilion, the idea is to always exercise outdoors. They can use the changing rooms because they are well ventilated and disinfected after a group has passed. The teacher wears a mask, since he is in charge of different classes. Meanwhile, Félix, who has started a project on the climate, has gone up to the roof of the school, where a meteorological station is installed. They have had to go through corridors and climb three floors, so they have covered their faces at all times. Once on the roof, and in the open air, they have been able to save it.

At the end of the school day, the students are also dismissed in turns to prevent them all leaving school at the same time. Martina leaves earlier and waits for her brother. They leave together, with the mask on. She has basketball training and Felix has a guitar lesson. In both cases, the regulations that oblige the use of the mask apply. They arrive home at 6.30 pm, and before greeting, they wash their hands. Some homework, dinner and bed soon, that tomorrow Felix has a trip to a park. Because yes, the exits and excursions remain intact. With that idea that not only education is not touched; Nor are the small details that make it unforgettable, even if it is in this fiction.

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