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The keys to going back to school: when do classes start? Is the mask still mandatory?

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The 2021-2022 academic year will begin in the coming days for more than eight million students from all over Spain, in a health context that improves, but continues to create uncertainty. While teachers strive to make up for lost time, the communities will re-apply the bulk of prevention measures from last year, although opening some spaces for relaxation that alleviate organizational difficulties, but worry many parents. For example, it increases the maximum limit of students in bubble groups, both in kindergarten and primary school, and the minimum distance between tables in secondary school is reduced from 1.5 to 1.2 meters. In that strange space, halfway between a time that is not yet known if it will return and the persistent threat of the pandemic, the following are some keys to the return to school that begins this Monday in La Rioja and some Murcian centers and continues until next day 13, the day classes begin in Catalonia.

When the clases starts?

Each community decides its school calendar, based on its own criteria, needs, contexts and traditions. This year, unlike last year in which the health crisis forced the return to classrooms of the different courses and stages to be staggered much more, it will return to a more classic scenario. Some communities, such as Murcia and Navarra, allow schools to choose between several dates to start classes.

Will the use of the mask still be mandatory?

The mask will continue to be required from the age of six and can be removed only when consuming food and beverages, according to the protocol agreed for this year between the Government and the autonomous communities. This text reminds “the need for a proper fit of the mask and to always use it in shared interior spaces, even at distances greater than two meters”. Likewise, it recommends that parents generally opt for hygienic masks “whenever possible reusable” and insists that the mask should not be removed when coughing or sneezing, but rather that “the mouth and nose should be covered with the elbow flexed. ”. The maximum recommended use time of the face masks is four hours, so two per day would be necessary. Teachers should always wear them indoors, regardless of the distance.

During outdoor activities, it can be assessed this year that both teachers and students over six years of age take it off if they meet the minimum distance of 1.5 meters. In fact, in Catalan schools, students will not have to wear face masks at recess, as long as they only interact with classmates. It must be remembered that the protocol is a general agreement between the Government and the communities, and that they can vary and adapt it according to their circumstances, their resources and their own analysis of the situation.

What will the groups be like?

The general protocol maintains for this course the so-called “stable coexistence groups” or “bubble groups” in infant and primary school to avoid contact with other students, although in 5th and 6th grade (10-11 years) you can also choose the solution of the minimum distance established for the elderly (ESO, Baccalaureate and FP). This is a minimum separation between tables of 1.5 meters, with the possibility of making it more flexible to 1.2 (a flexibility that most communities will apply). If the health situation worsens much (with alert levels 3 and 4), the distance of 1.5 meters would be the minimum for students of 3rd and 4th year of ESO and Baccalaureate (14 to 17 years old) and, even, the possibility of resuming blendedness. Of course, the bubble groups will be larger than last year: they will be able to reach 25 students per classroom in kindergarten (up to five years) and 30 in primary (from 6 to 11).

What will the process of entering the centers and movements be like during the day?

In general, the same as last year, with the nuances that each community introduces. In most, the control of body temperature is included at the entrance to the enclosure. The common rule remains to avoid crowds. Therefore, the entrance and exit of the center must be staggered or by differentiated doors or spaces for the different groups. There should also be recess and dining shifts. In fact, an attempt will be made to “minimize the movement of groups of students through the center” and “face-to-face assemblies or meetings will be avoided” and, in general, “all activities that involve mixing different groups or groups will be avoided. lessons”. Although outdoors the hand opens a little: both in primary and in ESO will allow “interaction between groups of the same grade” at recess or during sports activities.

How will the classes be aired?

Research has shown the enormous importance of good indoor ventilation to reduce the transmission of COVID. The correct ventilation of a classroom will depend greatly on its characteristics, however, the official protocol explains that the main thing is cross ventilation when it comes to the natural method, that is, opening doors and windows at least on two different sides of the room. If this were not enough, it will be necessary to resort to mechanical ventilation, with devices that renew the air. Undoubtedly, the images of students with blankets or with their coat on in class will be repeated this year. In addition, the insistence on reinforcing the cleanliness of furniture and other objects of common use is maintained.

Students sheltered in class last winter at the Juan de Mairena institute, in San Sebastián de los Reyes (Madrid).  PHOTO PROVIDED BY CC OO
Students sheltered in class last winter at the Juan de Mairena institute, in San Sebastián de los Reyes (Madrid). PHOTO PROVIDED BY CC OOPHOTO GIVEN CC OO

How will the management of possible cases of infection?

Neither students nor teachers should go to class if they have symptoms of covid, that is, fever, cough, feeling short of breath, fatigue or diarrhea. The question of the body temperature from which one should not attend the center aroused some controversy last year, since not all communities have set the threshold at the same point: for example, Euskadi indicated 37 degrees, while in Madrid and Extremadura were 37.2. In any case, if the center detects any of the symptoms in a student at the entrance or throughout the day, they will be taken to a separate space until their parents or guardians come to pick them up to take them home. There, they must remain isolated until they have the results of the diagnostic tests. Teachers with symptoms should act the same. The classmates (students and teachers) will continue to go to class normally until those results arrive.

How are the positives and their contacts quarantined?

If a suspected case is confirmed as positive, the person should not go to the center and should remain in isolation until three days after the end of the clinical picture and a minimum of 10 days from the onset of symptoms. Your close contacts will also need to be quarantined for 10 days from the last contact they had with the covid patient. However, several communities (such as Madrid, Catalonia or Castilla y León) have already announced that close contacts who have had the disease in the last six months or who are already vaccinated with the full schedule will not have to quarantine.

Who are those close contacts?

Apart from living relatives, all the members of a bubble group. Also, in the rest of the classes, all the people that the center considers to have had risky contact with the positive case, that is, having shared space with less than two less without a mask or having used it incorrectly (for not being well adjusted or leaving the nose free, for example). For confirmed covid patients, it is not necessary to have a diagnostic test before returning to class. For close contacts, it is recommended, but it is not mandatory either.

What if there is an outbreak in a school?

From three positive cases related to each other in the same center, it is considered an outbreak. From that moment, the body designated for this in each community will assess, depending on the severity of the case, the measures to be taken, which range from increasing prevention and hygiene standards and isolating cases, to closing classes, courses Whole and even the entire school or institute. Although they were few, last year entire centers were closed.

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