Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou assured on Friday during a televised press conference that the decision to reopen schools is informed by the team of experts advising the government and that detailed information on the hygiene protocols to be followed upon return to school will be disseminated in the coming days to parents and children alike while making the most of constructive recommendations.
Prodromou said that the decision to reopen schools was based on pedagogical criteria as children should not be deprived of the right to knowledge or their familiar school environment even if it is for one month.
He said that the decision was also taken to facilitate tens of thousands of parents to return to work and their daily activities and who have been deprived of their income during the lockdown.
Addressing concerns, he said that like with the gradual reopening of society, the education system must also gradually return to normality while strictly adhering to hygiene rules.
He reassured that schools will operate with absolute safety following all hygiene protocols and if needed, the announced decisions will be immediately readjusted as required.
He mentioned that digital remote technologies will continue to be used after children go back to school. In particular, he said that for the days that one of the two groups of children will remain at home as per the new ‘attendance by rotation’ system, the other group that will be at home will attend class with their classmates remotely so as to not fall behind.
Echoing an earlier announcement by President Anastasiades, Prodromou said that schools will reopen subject to the epidemiological data and upon agreement by the team of experts.
He said that in preparation of the reopening of schools, a series of activities are in progress including the drafting of materials in collaboration with the experts, presentations to teachers unions, video conferences and preparation of videos for families to transmit all necessary information to parents and children.
Prodromou also mentioned that a two-hour Q&A will take place tomorrow through Facebook to respond to queries.
He added that the 20,000 tests that the Health Ministry made available for pupils and teachers returning to school will begin next week starting with upper secondary school, and said that classrooms are being prepared for the reopening with signage placed and desks arranged to keep the necessary distance between children.
He explained that the 12 children limit was decided based on the average classroom area in public schools, and 13 children will be allocated in bigger classrooms for practical reasons. Based on the same reasoning, he said that there may be smaller classrooms with fewer than 12 students allocated.
In addition, antiseptics are being disseminated in all schools and thermometers and masks will also be available to be used when needed. A room will also be allocated for isolation purposes should any pupil or member of staff present symptoms and needs to be separate from others for a short period.
He said that children who go to school on a bus will do so as before but with a new time schedule.
Teachers who have children, he added, can take their children with them to school and as half the school staff do not have responsibilities they can mind the children.
Replying to a journalist’s comment that some private schools issued announcements that pupils will continue working remotely, Prodromou said that private schools cannot be prevented from regulating their own activities.
Asked whether absences will be recorded for those pupils who choose not to go to school, Prodromou replied in the affirmative but said the focus should not be on the absences but on whether children will benefit from going back to school.
“If a parent chooses not to send their child to school we cannot stop them, but schools will be open,” he said.
Pictured: The Minister of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth Prodromos Prodromou speaks during a press conference on May 8, 2020 at the Presidential Palace on the reopening of schools amid the gradual easing of lockdown measures for Coronavirus in Cyprus.