Schools might open in June in Slovakia as coronavirus numbers remain low

School attendance should be strictly voluntary, no more than 15 kids per class.

Children have been out of school for two months now. Children have been out of school for two months now. (Source: TASR)

If coronavirus numbers remain as low as they have been the past week in Slovakia, the youngest pupils and kindergarteners could return to schools in little more than two weeks.

Schools and kindergartens have been closed in Slovakia since March 13. In some places even earlier than that - for instance, Bratislava Region authorities decided to close schools one week earlier.

Prime Minister Igor Matovič discussed the matter with epidemiologists, who are advising him in containing the pandemic, on Tuesday, May 12. They did not give a definite date of when the first five school grades and kindergartens could open in Slovakia. The Sme daily reported the date could be June 1. Matovič said the final decision is expected on Monday.

Voluntary attendance

"Everything will run on a voluntary basis," Matovič emphasised on Tuesday, May 12. Parents who are afraid to send their kids to schools will not be forced to do so. Normally school attendance is compulsory in Slovakia.

It is not clear if parents who refuse to send their children to school and will insist on staying at home with them will still be eligible to pandemic care allowance, Sme noted.

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Slovakia has eased anti-coronavirus measures significantly as of May 6. Most shops, service providers, churches, museums and tourist sights are now allowed to open, albeit under strict hygienic rules. Schools remained closed across the board. While the Education Ministry has been restrained in its statements about when and how schools could open, PM Igor Matovič said in early April on Markíza television that pupils were definitely going to stay at home until the end of this school year, which finishes at the end of June in Slovakia.

The situation has changed since and numbers suggest Slovakia has contained the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak. Since April 25, the numbers of new positive COVID-19 cases remained mostly in the single digits. If this trend continues, kindergarteners and pupils of the first five grades of primary schools should resume school attendance, Sme wrote.

Disinfectants and smaller groups

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The instruction should take place under special conditions, with groups of 12 children in kindergartens and 15 children in primary school classrooms at a time. With sixth to ninth graders at home, schools should have enough room for younger pupils, but it remains unclear how they will handle it along with teachers.

Before they open, schools will need to stock up on disinfectants and thermometers. It is not clear if pupils will be obliged to wear masks during classes. Hygienists have already said that they realise this is not going to be possible for kindergarteners.

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