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COVID19: Not everyone goes back to school on 21 May

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Cyprus school students will return to class on 21 May except for first- and second-year lyceum pupils and children attending preschool, the government decided Friday.

The decision follows a meeting between President Nicos Anastasiades and the government’s advisory committee on handling the coronavirus crisis.

Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou confirmed that primary schools and gymnasiums would open on May 21 as part of the second phase of lifting coronavirus restrictions.

Final-year lyceum students have been back at school since the beginning of this week, ahead of their final exams for entry to Cyprus and Greek state universities.

President Anastasiades listened to the recommendations of the team regarding the second phase of reopening the economy.

In comments to the press, Prodromou said that the students to remain at home will continue with online learning.

Those returning to school will attend classes on a rotational basis, split into two groups on a weekly basis. Students will be going to school for one week and the following week they will be off.

Prodromou explained that the two groups will be briefed on the health protocols next week.

The first group will go to school on May 21 and the following day the next group will be briefed.

He also said that a testing scheme for 20,000 students and teachers will be stepped up for a better picture of the epidemiological trend in the education sector.

According to an earlier decision, all school students were to return to their classrooms as of 21 May, a decision which had raised eyebrows among parents and teachers who were worried about the risks.

Reactions from parents, students and teachers made the government more cautious about everyone going back.

Earlier last week, member of the team advising the president, molecular virologist Dr Leontios Kostrikis expressed “surprise” when told the government was to open schools on 21 May.

“We need to take slow, steady and considered steps. We must not make any rash move because if something goes wrong, it won’t be easy to fix,” Kostrikis said.

Justifying the government’s final decision, Prodromou, said: “The government had taken into account the need to limit the total number of students returning, that is why it was thought best to have only Primary and Secondary Schools returning”.

“Taking into consideration the difficulties surrounding the return of children of younger ages, the government decided to avoid having them return to their schools at present.”