UPDATED: 2. DEC 2020, AT 17:08

Older children will not return to schools before Christmas

PM Igor Matovič still wants some pupils to return, he proposed a pilot testing plan.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: TASR)

Children from grades five to nine of primary schools and secondary school students will definitely not return to in-person classes before Christmas.

The central crisis staff has rejected the second plan for opening the schools submitted by Education Minister Branislav Gröhling. He now wants to start working on the third proposal that should be submitted until December 23.

He hopes children would then be able to return to schools on January 8, 2021.

“I hope the third time will be lucky,” Gröhling said. He has rejected leaving the post if the plan is not adopted.

The pupils of grades five-nine of primary schools and secondary school students switched to remove learning on October 12.

Voluntary principle proposed

Gröhling wanted the testing of pupils and one of their parents to be voluntary. The schools should have been opened if at least 70 percent of schoolchildren would be tested. This would mean that also children without a test would return.

Related articleHalf of all parents lack time to help their children with distance learning Read more 

If less than 70 percent were tested, the schoolchildren would continue in remove learning, the Sme daily reported.

The minister explained that the threshold was calculated by several experts, including expert on infective diseases Vladimír Krčméry, ex-head of the Institute for Health Policy Martin Smatana and Elena Prokopová of the Health Ministry.

He also said it would be impossible to test all children, employees and parents, which is why he would need the help of other ministries.

Criteria not met

The plan was criticised by Health Minister Marek Krajčí (OĽaNO). In his opinion, the proposal should have supported the mass testing in the whole population, including all pupils and their parents.

Related articleOlder pupils still stay home. Exception made for those in material need Read more 

He also suggested that the liberation of measures and opening of schools would only worsen the situation. Although he realises that it is not good for children to stay home, and the epidemic situation is not good.

“We’ve noticed a slight increase in the number of hospitalised patients in the past few days,” Krajčí added after the meeting of the central crisis staff.

Interior Minister Roman Mikulec (OĽaNO) said as well that Gröhling’s plan does not meet the criteria.

The proposed voluntary principle has been criticised by the representatives of towns and villages, too.

President calls for a return to school

“There’s no time for political disputes, children need to return to school,” President Zuzana Čaputová wrote on Facebook on December 2.

Despite the great efforts of parents and teachers, distance learning is not an adequate alternative to in-person classes.

“Unfortunately, part of one generation of children and young people involuntarily creates an educational debt that will haunt them probably throughout their entire life,” the president continued, stressing that every day spent in school matters, especially when it comes to social contact and proper psychological development. “Thus, we need to search for a way to return children to schools as soon as possible without worsening the epidemic situation.”

It is not important to the public whose plan the crisis staff or the government supports, but that the respective bodies are active and bring solutions to urgent problems, she added.

“It isn’t good news if pupils have to stay at home only because the government failed to find a common solution to this important problem,” the president concluded.

Matovič to be involved

PM Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) said later on December 2 that he wants to take the matter into his own hands.

He wants some children to return to schools as soon as next Monday, December 7. With a pilot project, he wants to show in which ways it will be possible to open more schools.

As he said, several schools will be involved, testing children as well as parents.

Read more about the coronavirus outbreak in Slovakia:

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