Spain tests out Covid-19 precautions for schools reopening in September
Most of Spain’s schools will remain closed until September but the country is trying out a new normal for some students ahead of the autumn.
The Colegio Virgen de Europa in Madrid is one of the few schools opening their doors to pupils — with only a week left of classes — cautiously testing new coronavirus precautions.
Kids are checked for masks and fevers at the school gate. Classes begin and end with a thorough handwashing and disinfecting of desks and chairs. Students are allowed to take their masks off in the class room as long as they sit two meters apart. The same goes for the teachers, who have all been tested and cleared of the virus
“I think kids get a sense of security in rules and repetition,” explained Sarah O’Halloran, a coordinator at the school. “This routine that has become the new normal is something they are comfortable with.”
Classes are smaller. Coming to school is still optional. So, in the class we visited, half the students were learning by video conference. The other half sat at their desks, masks neatly folded into plastic envelopes.
Most importantly, the classes stick together, minimizing interaction with other groups and grades. In hallways, masked students walk single file following taped arrows on the floor to ensure physical distancing.
“If we should have a case in our school, we would then know which and how many [students] came into contact. So, we limit interaction with other classes as much as possible,” says O’Halloran.
It’s tough on kids though. The hardest part, says fourth grader Ellana, is not being able to reach out and touch your friends.
“We can’t give hugs.” she said through a black and white flowered mask. “We can’t play sports that we share things, like football.”
But just how much of a risk is opening schools?
“I believe the risk of reopening schools is not very high. Quite the contrary. The benefits of reopening for parent and child are very high.” Andrea Buron of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology told CNN in a video interview.
“Children are at a low risk of catching the disease as well as spreading the disease.”
But O’Halloran has some advice for parents and kids who can’t wait to get back to school.
“Time is important,” she said. “Learning the new rules is going to take a bit more time and patience.”