By: P.T., STA
Schools and institutions for special needs children might reopen on 5 January, a day after coronavirus testing is organised for the staff, Education Minister Simona Kustec said on Monday. Pupils in classes one through three of primary school are to be next to return.
The rest of pupils are expected back at schools by the end of January if all goes well, Kustec said as she arrived for a session of the parliamentary Education Committee called to discuss the return of students to brick-and-mortar schools.
The minister said that the relevant task force would adopt advice for the government on Wednesday, while the government would make a final decision by the end of the week.
Kustec said that the education and health ministries were finalising testing protocols. Those working with special needs children will be tested on 4 January, followed by staff working with students in the first three years of primary school.
Testing will be conducted at school premises by mobile teams provided by the Health Ministry, said Kustec, adding that schools had determined in internal polls last week that more than half of their staff would be tested.
If interest in testing is also expressed by parents, testing will be made available for children as well. But it will not be mandatory, the minister said.
On Saturday, the government’s Covid-19 spokesman Jelko Kacin raised a lot of dust when he said that school staff would have to get tested over the New Year’s weekend or else they could not come to work on Monday.
Health Ministry State Secretary Marija Magajne said at the government briefing today that testing would not be obligatory.
She added that should some decide not to get tested, it was a matter of employers to act in line with occupational hazard regulations.
The minister underlined today that the return to school must be safe and permanent, meaning that teachers, children and parents will have to follow safety protocols.
The Education Committee meanwhile backed the resolutions by the centre-left proponents of the session urging the government to allow special needs children to return to school as a priority.
It also backed a coalition-sponsored resolution urging the government to work towards a prompt and safe return of all primary and secondary school children to school as well as pre-school kids to kindergartens.
This was after a debate in which the MPs of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Left and the Social Democrats (SD) criticised the government for what they consider an arbitrary approach to closing and opening schools.
Željko Cigler of the Left said schools had been closed since early November, while no clear plan for their closure or reopening had been presented.
Minister Kustec said the plan of how children would return to school had been know for a while, adding that special needs children would go back to school next week.
Cigler claimed schools were not the main source of infections, but State Secretary Damir Orehovec said this was not true as the number of infections there had been growing fast when the decision to close them had been made.
Iva Dimic of the coalition New Slovenia (NSi) said not everything was as bad as the opposition would like to show.
“The situation is hard for everyone, for us and for parents, school children and teachers, and they are are doing their best,” added Mojca Škrinjar of the ruling Democrats (SDS).