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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Polish schools reopen to students as summer break ends

01.09.2020 07:00
Poland is set to reopen most of its schools to students as the summer break ends and a new school year begins on Tuesday.
Photo:
Photo:PAP/Darek Delmanowicz

The country's Education Minister Dariusz Piontkowski said last month that, after a prolonged period of distance learning amid the coronavirus pandemic, traditional in-person classes would be reinstated in most schools nationwide from September 1.

He said that restrictions would only be possible in counties flagged as "red" and "yellow," meaning those with more infections than elsewhere.

There are 18 such counties at the moment, of the total number of 380 nationwide.

"The current epidemic situation, as evaluated by the Ministry of Health and the chief sanitary inspector, allows us to restore normal classes, based on direct interaction between the teacher and students, in the overwhelming majority of educational institutions--in most schools, kindergartens and nurseries," Piontkowski told reporters in mid-August.

His education ministry has rolled out a set of special guidelines for schools to follow in the face of the pandemic. These include compulsory hand washing after entering the school premises and frequent airing of the classrooms.

Officials have also drawn up "10 rules of safe learning at school" for students.

Schools and preschools will be expected to minimize physical contact with visitors from the outside.

If there is a sharp increase in infections in a specific area, sanitary inspectors will be able to instruct the school to switch to remote education.

In some institutions a "mixed system" could be introduced if there is a coronavirus infection inside the school, if cases begin to spike in the area, or if students or employees are quarantined.

Principals would then be expected to reorganize the work of their schools to ensure that fewer students gather in them, including by telling some students to switch to distance learning on a rotational basis.

Ahead of the new school year, the powerful Polish Teachers' Union (ZNPcalled for free coronavirus testing, flu vaccinations and personal protective equipment for Polish teachers amid a spike in COVID-19 infections.

Education amid COVID-19

At the end of June, some 4.3 million students in thousands of schools across Poland started their summer vacations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, Poland in March shut all schools, universities and nurseries as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Elementary schools reopened to young children at the end of May as the country lifted some COVID-19 safety measures.

But most Polish schools at all levels of education stayed shut until the end of the academic year on June 26, providing distance learning instead of in-person classes.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in late June that his government would aim to reinstate full-time on-site schooling after the summer break ends on September 1, and that it wanted students to return to universities on October 1 unless there are “very unexpected events."

Michał Dworczyk, head of the Polish Prime Minister’s Office, said last month that schools across the country would receive nearly 4 million litres of disinfectant and more than 50 million face masks to be distributed among teachers and possibly older students in preparation for the start of the new academic year.

A total of 67,372 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Poland since the start of the pandemic, and 2,039 have died from the COVID-19 respiratory disease so far, officials said on Monday.

(gs)

Source: IAR, TVP Info