Cyprus Mail

Coronavirus: protocols for schools being finalised

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As authorities put the final touches to the health protocol for schools, primary school teachers and parents agree that pupils’ physical presence in class is the most conducive and effective method of teaching.

The health protocol is being finalised. It sets a one metre distance between pupils and requires all secondary education pupils to wear masks. A final decision is still pending regarding break time, the Cyprus News Agency reports.

The association of parents of primary school pupils and Poed, the primary school teachers’ union, discussed the forthcoming start of school year at a meeting.

In a joint statement issued on Thursday, the two organisations said that a safe, physical presence in class was the most conducive and effective way of teaching, adding that this was the objective of all.

They also urged the timely updating of health protocols that must be presented to teachers and parents, booster classes to cover gaps from last year’s academic year and substantial support for pupils with learning difficulties, with emphasis on children in special education and those with a migrant background.

The two organisations also urged the timely staffing of schools so that teaching can start from day one as well as upgrading technological equipment and training teaching staff for distance learning. Implementation and use of digital teaching in class and revising teaching targets (reducing the syllabus), lowering the number of pupils in class to a maximum of 15-17 also featured on their wish list.

The school board should ensure all necessary measures are taken to clean and sanitize classrooms if these are used for afternoon activities, the parents and teachers said. They also proposed single desks to maintain a distance between pupils, promoting installation of solar energy with parallel installation of air conditioning and the operation of school canteens based on health protocols.

Meanwhile, Elias Markatzis, who heads the ministry’s health and safety department, told CNA that once the Education Ministry receives the final suggestions of the Health Ministry it will be issuing its health protocol for use by the schools in September.

Markatzis said the changes related to the use of masks by pupils (they will be compulsory in secondary schools) and the tweaking of the wording to require a one metre distance between each pupil compared to the previous one metre distance between each desk.

The new protocol allows for a maximum number of 25 pupils to be in class, he added.

All secondary school pupils must wear their masks in class. Draft instructions currently require them to also wear masks during break, but Markatzis said that a final decision has not yet been taken.

Citing sources, the Cyprus News Agency said pupils would have to cover the cost of their masks.

The Education Ministry has received a number of offers for free cloth masks, but the issue is complicated by the absence of EU specifications on the safety they offer users. Cloth masks fall into the category of masks that do not provide individual protection to users and as such carry a warning.

The same sources said it was unlikely that pupils will be given disposable masks given the large number required – an estimated one million a month.

Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said on Thursday 16,000 to 17,000 PCR tests would be made available to schools, ahead of the start of the academic year on September 7.

Teachers will be returning on September 1 the day a testing programme will start to run from the health ministry, Prodromou said after a meeting with the political party Edek.

From the total tests available, approximately 2,000 will be given for private schools.

However, he added the main objective was to provide quality education.

“This is where the emphasis is placed, and we cannot be sidetracked by discussing desks and square metres.  The protocols must be adhered to, and a distance of one metre must be kept in closed spaces,” Prodromou said about the planned measures.

The ministry is also examining proposals to have single desks for students, or large desks for three students, with space between everyone.

In the case an individual is found positive for the virus, Prodromou said the school will stop its operations and be disinfected.

He also reiterated face masks will not be required for children under the age of 12, while for teachers and other adults in the buildings it will be mandatory.

Outdoors masks will not be required if distances are kept, he added.

“We can only alter these measures, if there are guidelines from the scientific team of the health ministry,” he said.

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