Primary schools to fully reopen next week
Ljubljana, 28 May - Fourth and fifth graders will return to school on Monday, the first day when the Covid-19 epidemic will no longer be in place. Those in grades six, seven and eight will return on Wednesday, Education Minister Simona Kustec told the press on Thursday.
This represents a full reopening of primary schools after children in the first three grades returned to classrooms on 18 May and those in ninth grade this week.
Also as of 1 June, children from the first three years will no longer be split into smaller groups of up to 15 children per classroom, going normally back to their original classrooms with their original classmates, the minister said.
The same relaxation will apply to kindergartens as of Monday.
Distance learning will meanwhile continue for secondary school students, expect for those in their final year, who returned to classrooms on 18 May to prepare for the school-leaving matura exam.
This is because there are still some restrictions applying to secondary school dormitories, explained Kustec.
Social distancing of 1.5 meters will still have to be observed as well as all other precautionary and hygienic measures.
Children will not be required to wear masks, but teachers are advised to wear them.
Despite the return to classrooms, the instruction to teachers that children should get only one grade before the end of the school year remains in place.
National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) director Milan Krek said that despite the relaxation of public life, infection risks remain, so caution is needed.
In case of any respiratory infection, school children and teachers are advised to stay at home, he stressed, noting that if the virus appears in a school, it would have to be closed.
The Association of Head Teachers responded to the news by saying that the government had not given schools enough time to prepare, and that there would be problems in organising travel, meals and after-school activities.
"We are getting all these guidelines and circular letters too late. This one we received on Thursday and we are supposed to implement it on Monday," the association's head Gregor Pečan told the STA.
Pečan thinks that this shows a "great deal of disrespect for students and their parents, not to mention school employees and managers", as "people, health and lives are in play", so it is indecent to handle things this way.
Branimir Štrukelj of the SVIZ teachers' union was also critical, saying that teachers had not been consulted, which is a message from the government that they "do not have the right to participate in the creation of education policy."
He added that the responsibility of a potential spread of coronavirus due to this decision would have to be taken by those who had taken it, and not by head teachers and teachers.
Schools closed on 16 March when the country went into lockdown four days after the epidemic was formally declared.