COVID19: Delayed back to school off to smooth start

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Schools reopened on Monday under a new COVID-19 regime of social distancing and mask-wearing for thousands of pupils and teachers after a week’s delay due to an unseasonal heatwave.

Under the new set of restrictions, secondary school students and all teachers are required to wear masks in the classroom and all students must keep to social distancing due to the coronavirus.

Those aged under 12 do not have to wear a mask in the classroom but teachers have raised concerns about pupils adhering to coronavirus protocols.

Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said some 107,000 students are returning to 735 schools under the cloud of the epidemic which disrupted the last academic year.

He also added that more than 13,000 teachers were in place ready to welcome the students, noting that there is one teacher for every 8 children.

Prodromou said that as a result of the “proper management and responsible attitude of society… we can have full attendance, with the physical presence of students at school.

We must therefore safeguard it. We will diligently apply the rules of individual protection and collective health safety, as advised by the health authorities.”

He said his Ministry’s aim is having the children physically present at the start of the new year after schools shut down in March.

“Nothing can replace physical education and we want children to be able to benefit from teaching, school life and our very qualified teaching staff.”

Referring to the Ministry’s goals for the year, Prodromou said the aim was to modernise the educational system, and to integrate digital technology, upgrading digital equipment at all schools.

A total of 331 primary schools with 51,540 pupils opened their gates on Monday, as well as 273 nurseries with a total of 11,705 children and nine special education schools with 484 students.

Another 114 secondary schools have welcomed students, of which 64 are gymnasiums, 38 lyceums, seven a combination of both and five are evening secondary schools.

A total of 39,980 high school pupils are enrolled, of which 22,991 will go to gymnasiums and 16,989 to lyceums.

Technical schools have 4,640 registered students.

Earlier in the day, President Nicos Anastasiades wished students, parents, and teachers a safe school year ahead.

He tweeted: “Happy school year, to students, teachers and parents! We return safely, carefully and following measures and instructions.”