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Free masks to be given to all high school pupils

Υπουργός Παιδείας Συνέντευξη Τύπ
Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou

All high school pupils will be given free masks since their use will be mandatory, Health Minister Prodromos Prodromou said on Tuesday during a press briefing about the measures taken for the operation of schools.

Following the backlash over what has been perceived as last-minute measures taken for schools, the minister gave an overview of what has been planned and done for their operation based on health protocols aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus.

He explained various measures were being looked into from the end of June due to the uncertainty over the pandemic outlook.

“The education ministry had made plans in time,” Prodromou said refuting the accusations, adding that several officials of his ministry did not even go on summer holiday due to the preparations made.

Schools are due to open on Monday, one week later than had originally been announced.

The minister said the use of mask is mandatory for high school pupils while in classrooms and that two reusable masks will be given to those pupils.

All large rooms in state schools will be put to use as classrooms to make sure social distancing is kept.

He also explained the decision to join two two-seater desks with an acrylic divider to ensure social distancing. That way, he said, three pupils will be accommodated. After photos of the joined desks circulated, many criticised the idea as lacking ingenuity.

Prodromou explained that the idea was to use one-seater desks, but they would need 82,000 of them, which would take around six months to get. They also thought of fitting plexiglass dividers for each pupil which would cost around €2.8m while getting the materials would take between two to two-and-a-half months.

He said it was decided to temporarily join two desks and also use one-seater desks.

Prodromou also said that in cases when there is not enough space, pupils will be split into two groups and each group will go to class on rotation, day by day. The group at home will follow the class online.

In case it is necessary for schools to close, plans have been made for online teaching as in the previous school year but also the broadcast of educational programmes by state broadcaster CyBC.

As regards dealing with high temperatures in the summer and cold weather in the winter, the ministry has signed an agreement with the electricity authority for the installation of photovoltaics in all state schools. The waterproofing and thermal insulation of school units is also underway.

“With the completion of the works, the capacity of the schools regarding the electric load will be significantly enhanced and it will be possible to discuss and study the installation of air conditioners or other relevant arrangements, on a realistic basis,” the ministry’s planning said.

The minister has also invited organised parents and educational organisations to a dialogue on the installation of air conditioning systems in schools.

The ministry is considering the preparation of a comprehensive proposal for the energy upgrade of school buildings and will seek EU funding for its implementation.

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