Home Education Teachers face the third year of the pandemic with optimism: “This year...

Teachers face the third year of the pandemic with optimism: “This year we have planned and the experience is reassuring”

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The atmosphere that is breathed these days in schools is very different from a year ago, when students (more than eight million) from schools and institutes in Spain resumed classes after the break caused by the pandemic and with the uncertainty on the effectiveness of the measures put in place to return to school safely. There is no triumphalism or relaxation, but this Monday, however, optimism could be noticed for the improvement of the situation and the lessons learned. This was the case at the rural school in Arnedillo, in La Rioja, where a score of boys showed their enthusiasm on their first day of school, and at the gigantic Beatriz de Suabia high school in Seville (it has 1,300 students enrolled), where its director, Luis Jesús Ruiz, admitted: “People are wanting to see each other again, especially in FP, because the classroom cannot be replaced by a screen.”

In Andalusia, secondary schools start classes next Tuesday; kindergarten and primary schools will do it earlier this Friday. The start of the course is staggered in the different communities during the first fortnight of September; This Monday it has only started in La Rioja and in some schools in Murcia.

In the Valencian Community, the school year begins this Wednesday in all stages. There, between welcome posters and piles of bottles of hydroalcoholic gels still pending distribution in the classrooms, the Bertomeu Llorens i Royo de Catarroja public school was preparing for that moment this Monday. The staff believes that the year will be similar and at the same time different from the past: a transition from education in a pandemic to something more similar to normality.

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Sitting on a bench in the courtyard, the director, Vicent Mañes, who chairs the Spanish federation of directors of public schools Fedeip, commented: “The contingency plans are going to remain practically the same. We will have seven access doors again. We will continue taking the temperature, using the gel in the classes, or dividing the use of the bathrooms and the patio ”. All classes will form this course stable coexistence groups (the so-called bubbles, which were only used until the second grade of primary school last year) and the maximum number of pre-school students will increase by five students (up to 25). This will allow the gym to function as such again (last year it was converted into a classroom) and that it is not necessary for any group to eat in their class, as two of them did until June, with the difficulty of transporting large ones every day coppers down the hallways, says cook Sofia March.

The school will recover the library’s book loan service, the school radio (where the students do not broadcast, but do make programs that they record and upload to the center’s website) and the garden. The tables of all classes may be grouped again, in addition, in pairs or groups. “We have proposed to resume educational dynamics that we had to stop, such as teamwork and cooperatively,” explains Mañes.

The atmosphere this September is more relaxed, continues the director. “Last year we didn’t know what was going to happen. Now we know that, with the efforts of students, parents and teachers, we were able to give an adequate response and that the results were worth it ”. David Masià, who will tutor a sixth grade group, sums up the general atmosphere in the school: “I think this year is going to be calmer than last. We have learned strategies to function better in this healthcare context. And the fact that the students can return to work more together and in a more active way is motivating for them and also for us ”.

A student from the Alto Cidacos de Arnedillo school, in La Rioja, this Monday,
A student from the Alto Cidacos de Arnedillo school, in La Rioja, this Monday,Javier Hernández / THE COUNTRY

Luis Jesús Ruiz, director of the Beatriz de Suabia Institute in Seville, adds: “This year we have planned and the experience is reassuring. Last year was crazy, you had to improvise and at the beginning the Health and Education departments were poorly coordinated. After this course we demanded calm from the cloister ”. In the corridors of the institute, in fact, you breathe optimism and bustle, a very different atmosphere from a year ago.

With the challenge of the first full course with the covid overcome and after combining face-to-face and blended attendance, the institute this week faces the arrival of its 1,300 students, between the ages of 11 and 60, in the morning and in the afternoon, of ESO, baccalaureate and vocational training cycles (retaking fully face-to-face classes is one of the main objectives of this course for the entire Spanish system). The ascent and descent stairs indicated with arrows, explanatory posters with hygiene measures, jars of gel and disinfectant guns in the classes, will welcome students, who at the moment are only visible at the entrance of the center for certain enrollments.

Some of the 116 teachers on the staff were already preparing to return to class on Monday. One of them was Patricia Martín, covid coordinator of the center, who sums up the general optimism: “This year the spirit has nothing to do with it. In 2020 we thought that in October we would be at our house and we only closed one class. Some teachers were scared and others panicked. Of course, we had a cold that you peel with the doors and windows open, and then heat in June with air conditioning and open windows ”. Mercedes Castillo is a teacher of an aesthetic training cycle and shows her frustration because the measures affect her teaching severely: “While the aesthetic clinics are open, how am I going to teach if I cannot remove a mask? I can not make up a full face or do a study, no massage or facial, only eye makeup ”.

In La Rioja, the Community Education Minister, Pedro María Uruñuela, showed his enthusiasm with a sports exclamation: “We are going to win this course,” he said in the courtyard of the rural center of Arnedillo, after explaining some of the characteristics that will affect a community that exceeds 50,000 students.

The novelties in the anti-pandemic protocols are that it is possible to reduce the safety distance from 1.5 meters to 1.2 between student and student, and that the bubbles are extended to all groups in each nursery and primary grade. In the rest of the levels, secondary, baccalaureate and FP, the other novelty is that there will be no distance education and presence is maintained, unless a “situation of epidemic outbreak” occurs, the educational authorities have explained. If a contagion occurs in children, it will quarantine the entire group of the bubble. In primary school, with 99% vaccinated teachers, teachers will continue to work even if there is an outbreak in their class if they test negative on diagnostic tests. In the rest of the levels, before a contagion, PCR will be done on the first and tenth day to all the students in the class.

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La Rioja has started the course with 200 backup teachers, half the number last year, but Education ensures that the number is not yet closed and that they will continue to meet all the needs of the centers. Other communities, such as Aragon, Andalusia and Madrid, will also provide their centers with fewer reinforcement teachers than last year, a measure that unions and parents have criticized. The Beatriz de Suabia institute in Seville received three additional teachers last year and this year its management is confident of having at least two to slightly lower the ratio of 30 students per class in secondary school and up to 35 students in the humanities baccalaureate.

The Valencian Community, however, is one of the three autonomies that have announced an increase in the hiring of reinforcements (together with the Canary Islands and Cantabria). But the troops will be allocated especially to secondary school to ensure full attendance, while in nursery and primary school they will decrease moderately, Mañes points out. Its center, located in the metropolitan area of ​​Valencia, had two and a half reinforcement teachers last year (for about 250 students), while this year it will have one and a half. At the same time, the tutors of each class will not have to remain in class when the specialist teacher (Music, Physical Education and English) enters, but will be able to leave to do other tasks.

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