Youngest pupils return to school Monday in Latvia

On November 1, the two-week autumn holiday ends for pupils. Due to the epidemiological situation, most pupils will resume remotely, except years 1 to 3, who return to schools Monday, Latvian Radio reported.

Compared to other European countries, children in Latvia have been forced to study remotely the longest, and this has had consequences in education and the mental health of children and young people. The Minister for Education and Science, Anita Muižniece, therefore stresses that the resumption of learning in person should be a priority, and the Ministry does not intend to step back.

Flows of students will be separated, and there are strict rules for masks, distancing, ventilation, hygiene, and other safety requirements.

Rūdolfs Kalvāns, head of the Association of Heads of Education, says that schools are ready to accommodate small pupils – testing has continued successfully in the past week and rapid antigen tests will also provide additional safety in the coming weeks.

The biggest challenge for educational institutions is the expected lack of teachers, because some of the unvaccinated teachers do not continue work, added Kalvāns. Primary school teachers and teachers of specific knowledge in vocational education institutions will be the most difficult to replace.

“We feel very sorry that colleagues, unfortunately, don't understand what's going on around them. We, principals, are working ourselves black and blue, [..] but some are, unfortunately, so stubborn and set in their ways that … I don't know, they have something else injected in their heads, some great conspiracy, or a great concern,” said Kalvāns.

Teacher vaccination is one of the topics that parents of smaller children are also worried about: since there is still time for the staff of educational establishments to get vaccinated by 15 November, there is a possibility that unvaccinated teachers could also enter the classrooms with the smallest children.

“There are indeed two sides among parents – one is very pleased that in-person learning will be resumed for small children for a variety of reasons – both because it is difficult to teach something remotely and to combine work with children's teaching, and there is a second part that is quite, even very worried about how it will be – to return to school in a situation where there is such a lot of morbidity around,” said Inga Akmentiņa-Smildziņa, head of the parent organization mammamuntetiem.lv.

Disease Prevention and Control Center reminds parents not to send children to school with even the slightest symptoms of a cold. As decided by the Government, as of 15 November, all other pupils are also scheduled to resume on-site learning.

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