The Malta Independent 24 October 2020, Saturday

Updated: Some children return to their classrooms, state school teachers await pupils

Monday, 28 September 2020, 08:49 Last update: about 25 days ago

Children in some private schools returned to the classrooms for the first time in six months today, finding a different set-up than they were used to until March as Malta battles against the spread of Coronavirus.

State and church schools were to open today too but this was postponed until next week as more time is given to teachers and school administrators to prepare protocols that need to be put in place.

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Earlier this month the government announced several measures that are needed for a safe return to school, while also establishing guidelines on what should happen in case one or more pupils feels sick while at school.

The 28th of September was slated as the day when schools were to open, but after pressure from the unions it was decided to postpone the re-opening, which is now to start on 7 October and staggered until a week later.

Some private schools, including San Anton, St Catherine's High School, and Chiswick House School however chose to go ahead with their plans to reopen their premises today.

Other independent schools, like San Andrea School, are holding online lessons this week, with students returning to the classroom as from next Monday.

Schools were closed in mid-March, soon after the first cases of Coronavirus were registered in Malta. The government later announced that the 2019-2020 scholastic year would not resume.

In the past weeks, both Prime Minister Robert Abela and Education Minister Owen Bonnici insisted that the way forward was for children to return to school.

Educators start a new scholastic year

Educators have returned to 107 state schools across the country for the start of the 2020/21 scholastic year, following the implementation of more than 50 measures in the past weeks and after a risk assessment was conducted in all schools, the government said in a statement.

“The risk assessments of each and every state school were concluded by independent risk assessors on the OHSA register, who certified all these schools as being in line with the protocols set by the Health Authorities and that these have been completely implemented,” said Minister for Education and Employment Owen Bonnici, during a visit to the Valletta Primary School.

This reflects work that began with the closure of schools last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the help and through discussions with all stakeholders in the sector, which led to educators returning to their workplace today.

During his visit, Minister Bonnici met with the Principal, the Head of the School and with the educators, and discussed with them their first day back at school and the measures which are fully implemented to see that educators are protected by drastically reducing the risk of infection. The measures also apply to the return of the students who will start over a period of not more than one week starting from the 7th October, 2020, until the 14th October, when all students will be back to school.

There are various measures in place which start at the school gate, where the temperature of those authorised to enter the schools is taken and hand sanitisers are used upon entering. Measures range from the distance between the chairs of the educators to those of the students, to protocols to be taken both in common spaces, educators’ meetings and the wearing of masks and/or visors.

At the entrance of every school, a security officer will see that all those entering the building adhere to the protocols.

During this week, until the students start school, the educators will be engaged with preparations to start welcoming the students for this scholastic year starting on the 7th of October.

Minister Owen Bonnici thanked all the educators for their commitment and dedication and all the staff in the education sector, who in the past weeks and months made sure that all state schools were up to the required standard to be able to open for this new scholastic year.

Photos Giuseppe Attard

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