Government and Autonomous Communities have defined the details of the return to school less than two weeks before the start of the course. In June, when the rate of COVID-19 in Spain was minimal since the pandemic broke out, they had already agreed on a minimum document, than has been expanded and modified now as a result of the worsening epidemiological situation. Now it will be the Ministries of Education that incorporate these modifications into their own plans, since the powers are delegated to the autonomies.
Experts indicate that these first weeks are key: depending on whether the protocols work or not, they will have to be consolidated or modified on the fly. The agreement aims to guarantee the presence of education, “create safe environments” and “enable early detection of cases and their management.” And three principles of prevention, one on limiting contacts; hand hygiene; and the disinfection and ventilation of the centers. The goal is that this course, which will be carried out in a pandemic because it is not planned that a vaccine will be sufficiently administered before June next year so that the health situation is controlled, can be completed without the schools becoming focal points. incidence.
Will the classes be face-to-face?
After six months of online teaching, which has opened a serious gap between students with facilities to access digital tools and those who do not, for this September we start from the premise of guaranteeing “daily face-to-face attendance for all students”, although in any case, prioritizing those under 14 years of age.
“If it were necessary due to the epidemiological evolution or the lack of spaces, a mixed modality (combination of face-to-face and distance education) could be considered,” added the first document presented by Education in June. Murcia was the first community to recognize, already in August, that indeed it will not be able to be like that and that education will be this course, at least, blended; Aragon and Madrid have also arranged it this way for the last high school years. There are communities that have committed to making it totally face-to-face, but others have not yet decided on its planning.
How will the spaces be reallocated?
The staggered entrances to the center, the relocation of spaces and the reorganization of shifts in the yard are recommended, and for all this it is urged “in exceptional cases” that municipalities offer places such as libraries and sports centers to give classes, something that the Barcelona City Council has already done this Wednesday and Madrid. The Church has also offered some of its properties and has already coordinated, for example, with the authorities of the Valencian Community.
What will the ratios be like?
Regarding ratios, the first Education document “ideally” already established a maximum of 15 male and female students, “up to a maximum of 20” if necessary. He defines them as “stable coexistence groups” and, in theory, they should not be mixed with others. It would be colloquially called “bubble groups” whose members can socialize and play with each other. But, for classes that cannot be organized in this way – from 12 years of age – the only indication is that when several groups have to coincide, the meter and a half should be maintained. “The education ministries retain margin to make the maximum number of students flexible for groups with stable coexistence as long as the public health authority of said Autonomous Community so authorizes it,” says Education.
It is the communities that have been announcing what their specific decisions about ratios are, some still to be clarified. Almost all those that have presented it have already remained in that range, although some, such as the Basque Country, argue that before the pandemic they did not exceed it, so it is not necessary to reduce it. In Catalonia, Andalusia, Murcia, Valencian Community, Madrid and the Balearic Islands, the average in each primary classroom in the 2019-2020 academic year did exceed 20 students, and in secondary school 25.
What will be the hygiene measures?
The masks will be compulsory from the age of six, as Health has agreed with all the Autonomous Communities. In addition, emphasis is placed on hand washing, which should occur regularly during the school day, at least five times a day. Both with soap and water and with hydroalcoholic gels. There will be health education classes that will teach about proper hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene and proper use of a mask.
And in the centers?
Cleaning will be intensified, especially in bathrooms and places of greater use. And the facilities will be ventilated frequently, at least for 10-15 minutes before classes start, during breaks and at the end of the day. This is one of the measures that have been highlighted the most by the Ministry of Health, because studies indicate that ventilation is essential to reduce the chances of infection. For this reason, the document recommends keeping windows open whenever possible.
What will the dining room be like?
The agreement highlights the importance of keeping school canteens in operation due to the role they play in healthy eating for students. “The maintenance of this service is a priority, either in the educational center or to take home,” says the document. It has been agreed that in the dining room the distance of 1.5 meters is also maintained, except in the coexistence groups. And it is recommended that permanent positions be assigned to students throughout the year.
What about school transportation?
In collective school transport, the use of a mask will be mandatory from 6 years of age, and recommended for girls and boys from 3 to 5 years old. Students will also be assigned to fixed seats for the entire school year, unless, based on the epidemiological situation, the health authorities determine a more restrictive use of vehicles.
Will the children’s temperature be taken?
Yes. Body temperature will be taken from all students and staff prior to the start of the day. In the event that the temperature is taken in the educational center, the latter will arrange the way to carry it out, avoiding crowds in any case and ensuring the maintenance of the minimum interpersonal distance. The Minister of Education has assured that parents will also be asked to do it at home before going to school, to ensure that all children are in perfect health.
Will there be penalties if a child goes to class with a fever?
No sanctions have been established for parents, but the ministers of Education and Health have highlighted the responsibility of families to prevent infections from occurring. In any case, schools will explicitly inform (and with confirmation of receipt) parents and other parental figures, or students of legal age, that students with any symptoms cannot go to class.
Will there be sporting events and celebrations?
In general, activities that involve the mixture of students from different coexistence groups or classes in which the minimum interpersonal distance of 1.5 meters cannot be maintained. Sporting events or celebrations in schools will be held without public attendance.
What to do if there is a positive case of coronavirus?
A protocol is outlined: if symptoms appear in a boy or girl while at school, they must be taken “to a separate space for individual use, put on a surgical mask (both the one who has started symptoms and the person in their care) , and contact the family. ” The teacher in charge must wear “adequate” personal protective equipment: a surgical mask or, if the suspect is a minor under 6 years of age, who would not wear a mask, an FFP2 without a valve. Then you have to “call the primary care health center of reference, or the reference telephone number of the autonomous community or city, and follow their instructions.” During that time, and the same if the child has been detected outside the school, according to the protocols of the Ministry of Health, all colleagues who have been in close contact should be kept in isolation.
In the new guide that Health has provided this Thursday, An annex is attached with the information to parents that will have to be sent if a case is notified at the center, who will have to be a little more attentive to symptoms.
Will there be paid leave for parents if children cannot attend class?
The Government has not clarified what measures it intends to implement to guarantee conciliation of those parents who have to take care of the minors in the event that they have to remain in quarantine, one of the great concerns of families. This document that we have agreed does not cover the issue of conciliation, “Celaá has admitted, although he has guaranteed that the” Government is concerned about giving an answer to the families “:” We will think about answers, “he added. Yesterday, the Government did. announced that they are studying a form of withdrawal or permits for these situations, but no details have been specified and sources of Education acknowledge that it is a measure that involves difficulties because it involves several ministries. The Minister of Economy, Nadia Calviño, recalled in an interview that this type of action has an “economic impact.” The Government is still thinking about how to guarantee the caregivers of these children that they can take care of them: if with a leave or with paid leave.
How will the center communicate the cases?
The new guide for case detection speaks of a COVID-19 “coordination” figure, which several regions had already incorporated into their plans. It is a professional, in principle a teacher, but in some places it may be a health worker or another type of professional because it is not specified, who will be in charge of planning the actions to be followed if a case is detected. It is assumed that he will have to be the center’s reference person on the subject and the interlocutor between the center and the health services if cases occur.
In which case will the school be closed?
If it is a case in a single classroom, all members of the “stable coexistence group” will have to keep isolation waiting for there to be some contagion. If there have been several in several classrooms, some classrooms may be closed but the course will continue as normal. The school will only be closed if there is community transmission in the center, but it will be “in the last instance” and after a decision by the regional health services. It will not be necessary to go through authorization from the central government.
Are there more recommendations for schools?
The document signed by those responsible for the central and regional governments also makes some recommendations to schools. Above all, prioritize the use of outdoor spaces as much as possible, since open spaces significantly reduce the chances of contagion. In addition, it asks that communication with families be intensified, but always by telephone, email, messages or ordinary mail, to facilitate administrative procedures electronically and thus minimize the presence of people outside the center. He also recommends that families walk or bike to school, because they are the options that avoid sharing closed spaces. They also emphasize that attempts are made to prevent possible cases of discrimination in relation to COVID-19, and that cases of greater emotional and social vulnerability that may have occurred as a result of the pandemic are especially addressed.