Schools open again on September 14 – here's all you need to know

Covid-19 health and safety measures, mass testing, new hires and more

A teacher and several students with face masks at Miquel Utrillo school, in Sitges, on June 17, 2020 (by Gemma Sánchez)
A teacher and several students with face masks at Miquel Utrillo school, in Sitges, on June 17, 2020 (by Gemma Sánchez) / ACN

Cristina Tomàs White | Barcelona

September 7, 2020 03:21 PM

After a tumultuous end to the 2019-2020 academic year that saw school closures on March 13 and forced lessons online, in-person learning for some 1.5 million students will start up once again six months later on September 14.

But the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet over and many parents likely have concerns surrounding school safety, especially after a mounting number of cases in Catalonia over the summer months.

Given these fears, here at Catalan News we’ve put together a Q&A with the main points you need to keep in mind for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. 

What new health and safety measures will be in place?

  • Staggered arrival times for students who must be wearing face masks upon arrival

  • Staggered break times with strict safety distances between students 

  • Facilities will be properly disinfected and ventilated

  • Hand sanitizer dispensers will be placed in common areas and students will be required to wash their hands frequently

  • Students will be monitored for possible Covid symptoms with temperature checks

  • Stable groups of students 

  •  Activities that can be held outdoors rather than in classrooms are encouraged

  •  Lunch shifts will take place with safety distances between set groups of students. If this is not possible, other rooms will be used as cafeterias 

  • Showers can be used after PE but only by students in fixed groups at the same time

  • Signs will be put up reminding students of the Covid-19 measures they must follow

Will students have to wear face masks?

All students 6 and over will have to wear faces masks while on school transport, upon arrival at school, in classrooms, and when walking through common areas.

Kids 3 and over are advised to wear face masks when on school transport.

Teachers and other staff members will have to wear masks at all times.

When should my child stay home from school?

Parents are asked to keep their children home from school if they test positive for Covid-19, if they have been in close contact with someone who has the virus and are awaiting results, or if they have a temperature of over 37.2ºC. 

Students should also stay home if they have the following symptoms:

Students 14 and under

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Discomfort
  • Muscle pain
Students over 14
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Altered sense of taste or smell
  • Headache
  • Discomfort
  • Chills 
  • Muscle pain

If a student gets the virus, all of their classmates will have to quarantine for two weeks and will be tested as soon as possible. 

Are parents allowed in school?

All parent-teacher meetings will have to take place online via videoconference. If this is not possible, up to 10 people can meet in person and respecting all applicable health and safety measures.

Likewise, all staff meetings should take place online too when possible.

Will students and teachers be tested for Covid?

Mass testing of 500,000 students, teachers and other members of staff will take place throughout Catalonia between September 15 and November 15.

Will new teachers and staff be hired?

As announced by Catalan education minister Josep Bargalló on September 7, 8,162 new teachers and staff have been hired ahead of the upcoming academic year in a move that will allow for smaller classroom sizes.

The government, however, is not set to stop here and has stated it will bring even more professionals on board in the coming months.

How big will classes be?

Schools should aim to have a maximum of 20 students per class, although 30% of primary schools have higher student-teacher ratios. Ratios at secondary and high schools have not yet been disclosed. 

Meanwhile, the education department has stressed the importance of maintaining stable, fixed groups of students that are together for all of their classes and in which measures are strictly adhered to, making “schools the safest place for students outside of their homes,” according to Bargalló.

Will these measures be applicable to extracurricular activities?

Afterschool activities do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Catalan education department but still must guarantee the health and safety of all students.