Schools in Phase 2 areas to open on June 1 but student attendance will be optional

Traditional lessons will have to wait till September as centers required to prioritize in-person learning in plans for next academic year

Feliu Vegués school in Badalona, shut due to the coronavirus crisis, March 11, 2020 (by Norma Vidal)
Feliu Vegués school in Badalona, shut due to the coronavirus crisis, March 11, 2020 (by Norma Vidal) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 20, 2020 12:51 PM

All educational centers in Catalonia in areas that have entered Phase 2 of the coronavirus lockdown de-escalation plan will be able to open starting on June 1, not long before the end of the academic year on June 19, although student attendance will not be obligatory.

Primary and secondary schools will not be opening for traditional lessons, however, but for complementary activities like individual tutoring sessions, by appointment, for students at a greater disadvantage or group sessions for students transitioning into a different educational stage, and they will remain open over the summer, but schools will not yet be providing meals. 

These centers will also be able to provide child care from 9 am and 1 pm for children between the ages of 3 and 6 if their parents or guardians do not work from home, but only in groups of up to 13 kids.

Daycare centers will face greater challenges to open in June as infants up to 12 months old, with still-developing immune systems, will not be allowed to stay at them. For children between 1 and 3 years of age, each center will have to decide which can attend - prioritizing those whose parents and guardians cannot work from home - and if they can open altogether depending on the number of carers as well as space available. Only up to 5 kids will be able to attend per group.

The Education Department's reopening plan states that this must be carried out as "each territory progressively enters Phase 2" but clarifies that the health regions of Terres de l'Ebre, Camp de Tarragona and Alt Pirineu i Aran, which will move into the stage on May 25 if granted permission by the Spanish health ministry, will still have to wait until June 1.

Although student attendance will be optional and online lessons will not be suspended before the end of the academic year, meaning there will be even fewer students in school than usual, numbers will still be capped at 13 per group in primary school and 15 per group for secondary school or other public centers like language schools. 

Teachers will not have to wear face masks if they can keep a safe distance from their students, but if this is impossible, particularly with younger ones, they will be required to wear them. That said, as of Thursday, face mask use will be obligatory for everyone over the age of 6 in public spaces in which a 2-meter safety distance between people cannot be kept. 

Private schools, on the other hand, will be able to choose whether they wish to open or remain shut, but if they do open their doors they will have to comply with the same regulations set for public and semi-private 'concertada' centers.

According to the Catalan Socialists, the government's plan could be unfair for some students. "[Today we’ve seen] the Catalan government transferring responsibility for education to local councils and educational centers, opening the door to an unequal right to education," argued Esther Niubó.

Health and safety measures for 2020-2021 academic year

Come September, Catalan education minister Josep Bargalló claims Catalonia will face an "educational emergency" as all centers will have to adapt to the public health situation and the risk of future outbreaks. Some schools will still be able to host all of their students by dividing up their centers into separated areas in keeping with safety distance requirements, but others will have greater difficulty doing so and will need new spaces to carry out lessons.

The Education Department has also stated that in-person learning is a priority come September, and it will require all educational centers to come up with a plan for the 2020-2021 academic year by the end of June specifying the health and safety measures they will implement to be able to guarantee this.

School plans will also have to include measures to deal with hypothetical future Covid-19 outbreaks that could lead to them closing again, which must address potential issues some students may have following lessons online.

"We hope this will not be the case, but in September all students will have to have internet access in case it is needed again for lessons," Bargalló said on Wednesday.

As is the case for centers opening in Phase 2, classes next academic year will be required to have up to 13 students in primary school and up to 15 for secondary.