Preschoolers, young students happy to see friends after lockdown
Ljubljana/Domžale/Celje, 18 May - Preschoolers and children in the first three grades returned to kindergartens and primary schools on Monday after two months of coronavirus lockdown. While most children were happy to see their friends again, teachers have vowed to make it easy for children to adjust to the new reality of social distancing in classrooms.
"I'm looking forward to school and teachers because I was home for a long time," first grader Manca from Celje told the STA this morning.
She is happy to be back but also aware that things will be different: "We will have to wash our hands a lot and we will have to stay further away from each other."
While nearly all students of the first three grades have returned to schools, kindergartens estimated that just over a half of the children will return, as parents have been urged to keep children at home if possible because the permitted number of children in a playgroup has been halved.
Many kindergartens plan for children to spend as much time outside as possible, however, not on the monkey bars, the slide or in the sandpit, which are off limits for risk of contagion.
Children will spend more time in play areas designated for each individual group and outside the kindergarten premises, for example in the nearby woods or fields, where possible.
Many schools also intend to see classes taking place outside, when possible, because this will allow teachers to remove their protective face masks, allowing for better communication.
While school teachers are required to wear masks indoors at all times, kindergarten teachers have to wear them only when in contact with parents, who in turn have to wear them when dropping off and picking up their kids.
Children, in kindergarten and in primary school, are not required to wear face masks. They will however have to adhere to heightened hygiene standards.
In what is a great relief for many parents, the National Public Health Institute (NIJZ) has said that children and teachers in kindergarten groups can communicate "like at home", meaning that teachers are allowed to provide physical comfort to children, many of whom felt uneasy this morning.
But while kindergarten parents are allowed to bring their kids to their playrooms, school kids have to say goodbye to their parents at the school gates, where they are greeted by a member of the staff.
Limitations imposed on the number of children in class and play group have placed additional demands on many schools and kindergartens, both in terms of space and staff.
While some kindergartens have resorted to putting some of the groups in nearby schools, some also had to hire students to help out the kindergarten staff.
As another precaution, school children had to bring all their school things with them today and after two months of distant learning all their books and other things will now have to remain in school.
Second grader Linus from Domžale liked home schooling, but was happy to see his friends again this morning despite shedding a few tears.
Most parent on the other hand are relieved that their children are allowed back to school, as working for home and helping children with school work proved to be hard work.
"It's very good that they can go back to school again. If nothing else, because they can see each other again in person. They were in touch over Zoom, but that's not the same," one of the mothers at a Maribor school told the STA.
"My son could hardly wait to see his classmates again and I'm very happy that they will remain with their old teacher," a mother in Domžale told the STA.
Echoing many parents, she said she was not worried about safety and health of the kids but was worried how children will feel with all the new rules in place. "I hope that teachers in kindergartens and schools will do what they can so that children will be happy."
Janja Bogataj, the president of the Association of Kindergartens, said that kindergarten employees welcomed the opening, while noting that some were facing spatial issues and shortage of staff.
When it comes to small children, it has been noticed that the return is somewhat of a problem, as they are looking for comfort and closeness of kindergarten teachers, who need to work more with them and provide more personal touch.
Staff shortages and teachers being more overworked than usual is also an issue faced by primary schools as they are have been reopened for the first three grades, said the head of the Association of Primary School Headteachers, Gregor Pečan.
A survey carried out by the pollster Mediana has meanwhile shown that the gradual reopening of kindergartens and schools with this kind of limitations seems like a correct decision to a quarter of Slovenians.
Some 36% believe that the institutions should have been opened for all generations, with the consideration of safety measures, while 15% would like to see kindergarten and school resume for all without any restrictions.