Few students showed up at the secondary schools in Polis Chrysochous on Friday morning after Thursday’s decision by the municipality, school board and parents’ association to close them for two weeks because of a surge in coronavirus cases.
Mayor of Polis Giotis Papachristofi said the number of students is in single digits and called on the ministry of education to accept the request of the local authorities to conduct the lessons online.
“The schools are ready and can operate online,” he said.
He reiterated his concern about the many confirmed coronavirus cases identified in the two schools.
“It is not possible for the schools to continue their operation when 20 cases have been confirmed in the lyceum and three in the gymnasium, at a time when two-thirds of the students were absent on Thursday,” he added.
Papachristofi went on to say he understands online education is not the same as classroom education, but under the circumstances it is better than the students being absent from school.
“We urged the parents that they [the students] should not go to school and that is what they did today,” he said.
The district inspector of secondary education of Paphos, Zoe Polydorou, responded by repeating what she had said on Thursday, that all schools in the Paphos district are open and operating normally, something, she said, which has been communicated to the management of the schools.
It is the policy of the education ministry to limit contacts if there is a confirmed case, she explained.
She also commented on a confirmed case at Emba lyceum. Disinfection procedures started on Friday after a member of the secretarial staff was found to be infected with the virus.
The member of staff has not been in contact with students and thus the school will not close, but the offices and other adjacent areas will be disinfected, Polydorou said.
The possibility of disinfecting the entire school in the afternoon is being debated.
On Thursday, the parents’ association of secondary schools of Polis Chrysochous had called on the education ministry to close schools in the area for two weeks. Association head Marios Theodorou said 10 cases were detected in the two schools, who have 250 close contacts.
Polydorou told the Cyprus News Agency earlier on Thursday that there was one confirmed case at the Polis gymnasium and three at the lyceum. Those who should isolate at home have been informed, she said, adding that the rest of the students staying at home are doing so because they themselves decided to and because they are afraid to go to school.
All primary schools and kindergartens in Paphos band the special school Theoskepasti are operating normally, Dimitris Mikellides, acting first officer of primary education in Paphos said on Friday morning “regardless of whether some chose not to take their children to school, either following instructions, or voluntarily.”
He said the Theoskepasti school reopened after it was temporarily closed due to the detection of a coronavirus case, and all parents were informed.
Asked to comment on the decision by the local authorities to close the secondary schools, he said this came as a surprise. The decision to open and close schools is something that the government decides on, he added.
“At a time when we are making a huge effort to operate schools with students physically present, at a time when we are hearing calls internationally to open schools, and with all these efforts being made, it is certainly a surprise for us and an anachronism to close schools at the initiative of local agencies.”
He referred to reports by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the drector general of Unesco Audrey Azoulay who said on Thursday that schools should remain open.
Mikellides called on everyone to show restraint and urged people not to panic but to trust the scientific team managing the coronavirus.