COVID19: Students hesitant as schools to reopen on 21 May

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All Cyprus schools will reopen on 21 May with the school year extended until June 26, but students are worried about a lack of COVID-19 safety precautions in class.

Following Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said that all schools, including nurseries and private teaching institutes, will reopen on May 21.

This date signals the beginning of phase two of exiting lockdown measures when all restriction on free movement is to be lifted.

Pupils will not be going to school every day but will instead be divided into two groups. There will be a maximum of 12 pupils in each classroom at any given time.

Group One will attend classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then they will be replaced by Group Two on Thursday and Friday during the first week.

The following week will see Group Two continuing classes on Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday and Group One will take over on Thursday-Friday to continue on the first three days of the following week and so on.

Prodromou reconfirmed an earlier decision that final year high school students will go back to school on May 11, with a maximum of 12 students per classroom.

He also confirmed the exams for entering Cyprus and Greek universities will be held as initially planned from June 9.

Referring to measures taken for the protection of both students and teachers, the Education Minister said that following the opening of the schools some 20,000 teachers and students will be tested for coronavirus.

Measures will also be taken for students who go to school by bus. He said that routes will be increased in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport.

Prodromou added that classes for all grades except for final year pupils will end on Friday, June 26.

He also added that as of 21 May, private teaching institutes will also be allowed to resume operations.

Meanwhile, students through their national coordinating committee (PSEM), have reacted to the Ministry’s decision to reopen all schools arguing that there is a lack of protective measures for both students and teachers.

“How will all the students and teachers get masks and gloves from the moment that the state will not provide them for free? How will the health protocols be observed in schools?” said PSEM statement.

PSEM wanted to know whether school halls and facilities are to be disinfected frequently, pointing out that 12 students in one classroom constitute a violation of guidelines issued by the Health Ministry which instructs businesses and shops to allow just 1 person for every 8 square metres of space.

Teachers have also voiced their misgiving about maintaining social distancing in the classroom.

“It is unacceptable that these burning issues remain unanswered 5 days before the opening of schools” notes PSEM.