Latvia's schools struggle to find enough space for pupils

A number of schools are struggling to find space to comply with the new regulation - at least three square meters must be provided per pupil, Latvian Television reported November 25.

At Rīga Hanzas High School, the standard class size is 60 square meters, with about 30 pupils in one class. With the requirement to provide an area of at least three square meters per pupil, only 18 pupils can be placed in one class.

The school principal, Valdis Lapiņš, said, “Then where do I put the other 12? I think it's a hidden decision to send everyone into remote learning. I don't believe that... well, there may be some schools in Rīga that can do it.

But three square meters per child – it is not plausible.”

Accordingly, the principal predicts that schools will gradually move to fully remote learning, echoing the claim of Educators Union earlier. This has a significant impact on the quality of the learning process during the primary school phase.

At this school, there are nine rooms where 30 pupils could be accommodated with sufficient space. This is the great hall, aerobics hall, gym, hallways and separate rooms. But it is not enough - at least nineteen such spaces are needed.  But it's not enough for everyone. Dividing classes into smaller groups is impossible. Not enough teaching staff.

“Where will I get teachers if I redistribute classes in groups? Cut them in half? 

Let's say I would find the spaces, but then I have 19 class sets. Then I need another 19 teachers. I counted, I can provide teachers for nine,” Lapiņš said.

The option that will now be offered to parents is to divide classes into two groups, changing daily - half of the class comes on Monday while the other half works at home. Change on Tuesday. 

Other schools, too, say they want to keep pupils at school in person. The rooms at Rīga 22nd High School are very narrow, and so are the hallways.

The 22 nd High School Director Irina Romanov explained that she was considering dividing classes into parts:

“We considered the option that we could divide the class into groups or form three classes from two classes, thereby reducing the number of pupils in one classroom. However, primary school children cannot learn independently. We are also planning to occupy the hall and the gym where we will place a larger group of pupils.”

But for example, the municipality of Sigulda has already decided that in Laurenči primary school, where there are objectively no free spaces, some classes could move to the Ski Centre and Sigulda State Gymnasium, where all pupils are currently learning remotely. Each school is looking for the right solution in accordance with its own capabilities.

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