Cyprus Mail

Coronavirus: Education minister – We’re ready for a safe return to school

Dividers are being put between desks to ensure social distancing in the classroom

Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said on Monday schools will be operating under emergency conditions this year due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Teachers will return to schools on Tuesday to prepare their classrooms in accordance with the hygienic protocols issued to schools last week. Students are set to head back on September 7, with mandatory face masks for children above age 12, staff and teachers in all closed spaces in schools.

“Our goal is to have normal attendance for all students, in hygienically safe conditions. If the children will not be able to attend school normally, then gaps are created, and their school progress and education is disrupted,” he said.

Prodromou added that the first five to ten school days will be devoted to teachers covering material missed during the last half of the 2019-2020 school year.

“All solutions will be given and adjusted for the local level. Not all schools are the same and have the same density of students. There are a few schools with a large number of students, and in many we can ensure hygienic protocols without adjustments,” he said.

According to the minister, on a technical level all available spaces in the schools will be used for teaching, and the classrooms will be adjusted accordingly.

He added that for primary schools a two-day seminar was organised for teachers to train them in online teaching methods and how schools will function under the coronavirus protocols.

“We are prepared for other health protocols, if potentially worse health developments occur and change things,” he said, referring to a possible return to online education, if the need arises.

Prodromou said they have been working with the digital ministry to upgrade connectivity to the internet in schools and have the correct equipment for complete online learning.

He said upgrading the school networks had a fixed cost of €300 thousand and will cost €100 thousand a year.

Prodromou said the government is ready to provide the necessary funds when the needs arise.

The process to reopen schools has the support of the parents and teachers, he added.

“We are united in our goal,” he said. He added that all of the ministry’s colleagues are working towards providing quality education to students in a safe and healthy environment.

“Some of our colleagues are making huge efforts,” he added.

Commenting on criticism over the past few weeks from some teachers, parents and student groups, he said some people do not want to find solutions but want to highlight problems.

“Over this entire period, we are in constant contact with our partners. Almost every week, I have had meeting and consultations with teachers’ groups and tactical meeting with parents’ groups,” he said.

Prodromou has discussed with the teachers’ unions and the parents the protocols to be followed.

Last week an issue emerged, when the health ministry said face masks would be mandatory for all people over the age of six in indoor spaces, but it was later changed to apply to pupils 12 years and above.

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