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‘Optimism’ to ‘return to normality’ as new school year begins

Over 1.5 million students across Catalonia return to classes on Monday morning for another pandemic-affected academic year

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13 September 2021 03:51 PM

by

Cillian Shields | Barcelona

Students and teachers returned to classes today to kick off the 2021-2022 academic year with hope and optimism.

Around 1.5 million students across Catalonia have started a new school year that, according to the education minister Josep González Cambray, has “far less uncertainty” about it compared with other pandemic-affected courses. 

Salvador Rovira, director of the Institut Joan Salvat Papasseit high school in the La Barceloneta district of the Catalan capital explained to Catalan News that he and his team have “great feelings” about returning to class for a new school year with “optimism and a lot of excitement.”

”Returning to normality for a teacher is very important, as doing your work without students there doesn’t make much sense,” he said. 

He also celebrated that his school was undergoing a “new project” that also fills him with excitement for the future. Rovira explained that the building and facilities will see some renovation works done with new equipment also installed. 

“We enjoy seeing these new things that will help the students learn,” the school director said. 

Pandemic difficulties 

Rovira lamented that when the pandemic first hit, it was a “very tragic” thing that came into everybody’s lives. As the health crisis progressed, it had become a more familiar obstacle by the time the previous academic year began, although by that stage the vaccination campaign had not yet started. 

The 2020-2021 school year was marked by many absences when classes had to self-isolate if a student was diagnosed with Covid-19. The school director says his institute was “lucky” in terms of how many infections happened among the pupils, and this allowed the school to go ahead with classes with relative normality. 

“We had to adapt to the situation, but overall we saw more positive things than negative.”

However, things are expected to be even smoother this year, as the vaccination campaign has already ensured around half of the students across Catalonia between the ages of 12-15 are fully protected from Covid-19, while for 16-19 year olds that figure rises to two-thirds. 

This has allowed authorities to make the decision that fully vaccinated students won’t have to self-isolate if a member of their class becomes ill with the coronavirus. 

Yet, some difficulties are inevitable, as the Institut Salvat Papasseit has a lot of programmes that are based on interaction between students, such as cooperative working programmes that usually take place between different social bubble groups.

This year, due to the pandemic, these kinds of programmes will be limited to the set social bubbles. 

"This is a school that puts a lot of importance on personal and social development," Rovira explains. As part of this, the school offers some courses where older students mentor and teach younger ones, but last year this programme was scrapped. 

"This year, we will do it with masks and also remotely," Rovira says. "Obviously, Covid-19 has added a lot of difficulty, but we've come up with a plan with a lot of regulations, such as using face masks, open classrooms, hand gel."

"So yes, there have been some difficulties, but this year they won't be too great to prevent us from having a school year with a certain amount of normality," Rovira concludes.  

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  • Students at the Institut Ramon Barbat in Vilaseca on the first day of the 2021-2022 school year (by Eloi Tost)

  • Students at the Institut Ramon Barbat in Vilaseca on the first day of the 2021-2022 school year (by Eloi Tost)

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