Schools to open 'to all students' for regular lessons in September
Spain's education ministry calls on Catalonia and other territories to turn public spaces, dining areas, and libraries into classrooms
Schools in Catalonia and all across Spain will open their doors "to all students" in September to kick off the 2020-2021 academic year, Spain's education minister said on Wednesday.
According to Isabel Celaá, the new school year will take place "in-person," and she asked the regional governments such as Catalonia's to "adapt" spaces, including dining areas and libraries, to serve as classrooms.
The goal is for there to be fewer students per classroom compared to pre-Covid figures in order to keep safe distances.
Catalan president Quim Torra, however, took to Twitter to remind Celaá that education falls under the Catalan government's scope as authority over it is devolved to the regions: "The Catalan education department will determine the conditions [in place next academic year] after speaking to local groups and the Catalan education community."
Maximum number of children per group
Indeed, a document put forth by Spain's education and health ministries, which will be discussed with regional governments on Thursday, states that groups should "ideally" not have more than 15 students (20 maximum) per year in early childhood and primary school up to 4th grade (10-year-olds).
From 5th grade up to secondary school and the pre-university years, the maximum number of students has not yet been disclosed, but the document states that schools will have to guarantee safety distances of at least 1.5 meters.
Use of face masks
As for masks, they will not be compulsory for early childhood students.
Children in 4th grade and younger year levels will not have to wear masks unless they are not in groups where 1.5-meter distances can be kept.
Fifth graders and older students will have to wear them if safety distances cannot be heeded, but not while seated at their desks.
Cleaning and disinfecting
Schools will also have to come up with a cleaning and disinfecting protocol that will have to be carried out at least once a day – places like toilets, however, will have to be cleaned at least three times a day.
Facilities must be aired out for at least for five minutes before classes begin, and, "when possible," also between lessons and afterward.
Catalan government preparing for new situation
The Catalan government is already working on how to adapt schools to the new situation as well as considering what other facilities could be used for classrooms and the number of new teachers that will be needed for smaller classes.
A few days ago, the Catalan executive estimated that 9,000 teachers would have to be hired in September – yet, on Tuesday, Vice President Pere Aragonès said this figure could end up being higher.
In some schools, timetables will change to avoid crowding at the beginning or end of the school day.
The final decision on how the next academic year will unfold will be taken by July 15.
"The situation must be clear by July 15 in all 5,942 schools in the country, and in the end, we might have 5,942 different solutions," said Catalan education minister, Josep Bargalló.
Bargalló and his ministry's actions have been criticized by the opposition, including the far-left pro-independence CUP party which argues it "doesn't engage in dialogue" with the education community.