SPRING 2020: A LOOK AT THE PROGRESSIVE RETURN TO SCHOOL DURING THE HEALTH CRISIS
- Determinants in light of the pandemic
- Knowledge loss during school interruptions
- Learning a skilled occupation during the COVID-19 crisis
- Literacy during the lockdown: uneven benefits
- The first transition to school during a crisis
- The importance of supporting vulnerable youth during the pandemic
- The mental health of teens during the pandemic
- Transitioning to high school during the pandemic: issues and actions
Published May 5, 2020 | Updated July 2, 2020 (Updates for China, South Korea, France, and Germany)
During the COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO reported in early April that 91% of the world’s student population had been affected by school closures. In early May, 72% of students were still affected, and this was still the case for 62% of students by the end of June.
In Québec, the resumption of classes first mentioned by Premier François Legault on April 10 is taking shape. In the Greater Montreal area, classes will not resume until September.
Returning to school during a crisis can be stressful, and a survey conducted in April for the Jasmin Roy Sophie Desmarais Foundation showed that 67% of parents and 46% of children say they are anxious about the idea of returning to the classroom.
We also wanted to provide an overview, based on various media sources, of how the resumption of classes is occurring outside of Québec in order to better understand the issues. Dated sources are listed at the end.
COUNTRIES GRADUALLY REOPENING SCHOOLS
After a two-month crisis, China gradually reopened its schools, region by region, observing strict hygiene protocols:
- Lines for entering classrooms
- Wearing masks
- Health certificate for all students
- Temperature taken three times per day for students and teachers
- Desks spaced out in classrooms
- Activities and courses staggered throughout the day
- Premises regularly disinfected
In the largest cities—Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou, high school students went back to school on April 27, after being away for three months. Students from Wuhan had to wait till May 6. The college entrance exam usually held in early June—the Gaokao—was postponed until early July.
However, Beijing schools re-closed in mid-June due to a resurgence of the virus.
The first state affected after China, Singapore initially managed to contain the virus and only closed its schools starting April 8. Courses were held by videoconference one day per week for each class during the lockdown while waiting for schools to reopen, which started on May 4. Nearly all mid-term exams, which were to be held in June, have been cancelled, and final exams are expected to be lightened.
In South Korea, classes resumed virtually in early April. A nation-wide technology loan program was implemented so that families who lack computer equipment can continue to educate their children.
Later, schools gradually re-opened starting May 20, after being closed for several months. The country orchestrated a four-phase plan in which students took turns returning to class, with a gradual return by grade level; early June marked the final phase. Health measures include symptom monitoring, smaller class size, and part-time attendance.
The university entrance exam, which was scheduled for November 19, was postponed by two weeks.
On April 15, Danish school children returned to class after a month of absence. Denmark was the first European country affected by school closures to reopen its schools.
The return to class was gradual; daycares and elementary schools started from April 15 to 20, while high schools and colleges followed starting May 10.
Schools have been able to reopen through the application of social distancing measures; in Denmark, this means:
- Desks spaced by two metres
- Classes divided into several sub-groups
- Use of entire building—gym, cafeteria, labs, workshops, etc.—to accommodate small groups
- All students wash their hands every two hours
- Reminders of hygiene rules posted everywhere on laminated sheets
- One-way traffic in stairways
- Ban on gatherings of more than two people inside and three outside
- Hand sanitizing gel available for everyone
To better respect social distancing measures, even with limitations of being in classrooms, teachers have been encouraged to hold classes outside in schoolyards, gardens, and fields.
One school principal south of Copenhagen mentioned clear communication with parents, who are not allowed to enter the school, in particular by sending a manual of health instructions to all families and holding a video conference prior to school resuming in order to address concerns.
Denmark was followed closely by Norway, which reopened daycares on April 20, and gradually began to reopen other educational institutions starting April 27.
For young children, group size has been significantly reduced to allow compliance with social distancing measures.
- Children under 3 stay with each other in groups of three, supervised by an adult.
- Children aged 3 to 6 stay with each other in groups of 6.
Like Norway, Switzerland gradually reopened its schools by age group:
- Daycares reopened on April 27.
- Elementary schools reopened starting May 11, still by age group, with younger students returning first, initially with half-size classes and half-days, then full time starting on May 25.
- Students began returning to collèges on May 25, with half-size classes and half-days.
- Lycées reopened on June 8.
In elementary schools, only adults are wearing masks. Students must respect safe distances and wash their hands at the start and end of recess periods.
On Monday, April 13, France announced a gradual reopening of its schools:
- May 11: preschools and elementary schools.
- Starting May 18: the first year of middle school (collège), weakened because of the school transition. Resumption dates for other years were determined according to the evolution of the situation.
- June: the last year of high school (lycée).
School bus drivers are required to wear masks, and only every other seat is available to passengers.
In the initial phases of reopening, some maneuvering room at the local level allowed regions to adapt the return to class based on local situations, with adaptations including reduced class size, non-mandatory attendance, and distance learning. In the most severely affected regions, the re-opening date for collèges was postponed. While there was some flexibility in how classes were held, attendance remained mandatory. At-risk teachers were allowed to continue working remotely.
A mandatory return to class for everyone began on June 22. For this to happen, health measures were relaxed, in particular through the elimination of social distancing for young children.
The ministry of education is implementing “education support modules” and “educational camps” to support more vulnerable students over the summer before they return to school in the fall.
In Germany, a very gradual resumption of classes started in May, depending on each province. The first students returning to the classroom were those preparing for exams and those in the last year of elementary school to prepare for high school in the fall. Daycares will stay closed until the fall.
A complete reopening of schools is planned for the return from summer vacation. Vacation periods have been staggered in many regions to allow time for health-related remodelling to be done.
Portugal announced that distance learning would begin starting April 14. To support distance learning, teaching material was broadcast on television. High schools started reopening on April 18 for students taking courses for which higher education entrance exams must be taken. Kindergartens have also resumed classes since June 1. For other students, distance learning continued through the end of the school year.
Videos were sent to high school students informing them of conduct rules: taking their temperature before leaving for school, wearing masks and using sanitizing gel provided by the school, and respecting social distancing. Teachers respect the same rules and teach while wearing masks.
In Australia, schools in the least-affected territories of the country started opening opening gradually from the week of April 27, though parents were not forced to send their children to school. In the most heavily affected state, New South Wales, a gradual return to classes began May 11; students attended only one day per week to start and then gradually moved to two days.
In New Caledonia, preschool, elementary, and high school classes resumed on April 22, except in schools still lacking equipment to ensure the safety of students and staffs. Attendance is mandatory, though absenteeism was tolerated for the first two weeks. Measures in schools include:
- Traffic plans inside buildings, with floor markings
- Wearing masks
- Hand washing throughout the day
- Staggered recess periods
Universities reopened in May. In order to avoid burdening students, campus rents were not collected for April.
A resumption of school was planned primarily for students lacking the ability to distance learn or those with working parents. For the rest, distance learning remained the preferred option. Students who returned to the classroom were split into groups of 10.
In Israel, schools reopened on May 3 in districts where the pandemic was deemed under control, starting with the early grades of elementary school. Students must wear a mask, may not take recess together, and show their teacher a certificate each day, signed by their parents, that they do not have a fever.
British Columbia began a gradual and optional resumption of classes starting June 1. School spaces, including classrooms but also outdoor spaces, were reorganized to accommodate students while complying with social distancing rules. Nor did schools take in all students at the same time.
- Elementary students go to school two or three days a week.
- High school students go to school one day a week.
- Children of essential workers continue to go to school all week, as they have done since the start of the pandemic
COUNTRIES THAT WILL NOT REOPEN SCHOOLS BEFORE THE END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR
Other countries have decided to keep schools closed through the end of the school year and reopen for the start of the next school year.
This is true of Italy, which has been so severely affected by the pandemic, and Spain.
In both the United States and Canada, measures are specific to each state and province.
In the heavily affected state of New York, schools remained closed until the end of the school year.
Newfoundland and Labrador announced the end of the school year on June 5. However, schools began to welcome teachers starting June 1 to conclude the current year and to prepare for the start of the next school year.
In other provinces, such as Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Nunavut, schools remained closed through the end of the school year.
OVERVIEW OF THE PRIMARY MEASURES AROUND the WORLD ALLOWING A RETURN TO CLASS
- Greater spacing of tables and chairs in classrooms
- Disinfection of rooms and equipment
- Use of hygiene equipment (masks, hand sanitizer)
- Monitoring of students’ symptoms (parental and school staff)
- Limiting student gathering size
- Rearrangement of school spaces to separate classes
- Directional travel on premises
- Staggering of courses, activities, and breaks
- Direct communication with families to provide information
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Information continously updated. https://fr.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse
Canada – Québec
April 21. https://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2020/04/21/comment-le-gouvernement-envisage-la-reouverture-des-ecoles-un-etalement-sur-3-semaines-des-classes-de-15-eleves-et-un-protocole-sanitaire_6037320_3224.html