Union dissatisfied with new rules at schools in Latvia

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The new rules which also require teachers to wear a mask at all times and provide three square meters per pupil are "cynical", said, Inga Vanaga, head of the Latvian Education and Science Workers Union (LIZDA), in an interview to Latvian Radio November 25.

The organization might ask for the resignation of Ilga Šuplinska, Minister for Education and Science.

On Tuesday, the government decided on new restrictions on education: as of November 30, three square metres of space must be provided per pupil, but teachers will also have to use face masks in classroom. If such requirements cannot be met, the school should organize the learning remotely.

Vanaga said that the new restrictions come with with "a certain dose of cynicism".

She said decision-makers should imagine themselves in a 90-square-meter classroom where an educator is trying to establish contact with pupils with a mask on.

According to Vanaga, the public should consider that there will be a transition to remote learning in the smaller class group, since it will be physically impossible to meet the above requirements. Vanaga said the government's decision aims to make leaning more remote.

“Then they should have said openly, please, we all go to remote learning,” said Vanaga.

The LIZDA council will decide on Wednesday whether to request the resignation of Ilga Šuplinska. The decision had been planned before, but the trade union nevertheless allowed the minister to clarify her position by awaiting answers to questions they asked. Vanaga commented that part of the answers received was “rather empty, not even a half step forward”.

As reported November 24 by the LETA news agency, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the Latvian government decided on harsher restrictions in education and sports, as agreed by the Cabinet and the Crisis Management Council today.

Starting from November 30, schools will have to ensure that the minimum floor space per pupil in classrooms is 3 square meters.

Epidemiologists explained that children in the age group of 10-12 show a steep increase in Covid-19 incidence, and Covid-19 outbreaks with a high number of pupils have been recorded in education institutions. Therefore, education institutions are still at high Covid-19 risks.

Teachers will be required to wear masks in classrooms and outside classrooms.

Practical training in adult education, higher education institutions and vocational schools, where remote learning is not possible, will have to be organized in groups of no more than ten people and taking all the necessary precautionary measures, including physical distancing.

Restrictions will be increased also on sports clubs, with only individual workouts in the presence of one coach allowed at indoor facilities. The sports clubs will be required to provide at least 15 square meters of floor space per person and the number of people at a sports facility will not be allowed to exceed 20 percent of its capacity.

Entertainment-related services will have to be provided remotely and rehearsals of amateur musicians and artists will have to end by 22:00, according to the ministry's proposals.

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