Schools in 25 districts cautiously open doors to younger pupils

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Starting Monday, learning onsite for grades 1-4 can be resumed in 25 municipalities with a low Covid-19 incidence rate, Latvian Radio reported February 22.

Safe municipalities are determined by cumulative Covid-19 rates, which should be below 200 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. A 10% deviation is allowed, so in practice the maximum cumulative rate is 220 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

One of the schools opening today is Ērgļi High School, where 73 pupils are returning to school. The last few days have been very intense, said the principal, Inese Šaudiņa. Staff testing, handing out masks (three masks per pupil) had to be organized rapidly. Teachers are also showing pupils how to handle the masks, said Šaudiņa.

The school has also managed to provide catering services and to manage flow of pupils in the building so that contact between classes is as low as possible. The principal is concerned about how long it will be possible to maintain the status of 'safe' municipality, as it is enough to have a few cases to increase the cumulative rate. Teachers are also worried about their safety: some would like to be vaccinated before they resume work.

Kristaps Zaļais, principal of Laurenči primary school in Sigulda municipality, also agrees. Today, more than 200 pupils are returning to the school.

“Of course I am a complete and absolute believer in the fact that teachers had to be protected as much as possible. And those who want to vaccinate had to be vaccinated. Of course, educators are concerned. When you hear that Saturday number of sick people – above 1000 – it's not likely that you feel safe to come back. I am not against the fact that pupils have to come back, especially in these safe regions. But on Friday at 14.00 finally getting the final version of the draft decision - I think it is unacceptable,” the principal said.

The director of the Laurenči school is also worried about how long Sigulda municipality will stay on the safe list.

Silga Stučka, Chair of the Committee on Education and Culture of Pļaviņas municipality, said that the schools in Pļaviņas will not open yet despite it being on the 'safe' list.

"Our municipality also teaches pupils from other municipalities which have quite high levels of infection. We have yet to reconsider how we could regulate this process. And in order not to be hasty, we have decided to prepare for next week. If the indicator is unchanged and allows it, then let's start learning on March 1.”

In general, the decision to identify safe municipalities in which to start teaching smaller classes in person is welcomed by municipalities. However, it has been too hasty and there is a lot of uncertainty about how to deal with the various issues related to epidemiological safety. Each Wednesday, the Disease Prevention and Control Center will publish the latest data on municipalities where on-site learning is allowed.


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