Back to school with limited quarantines, teachers withdrawn and vaccination pending

This Monday eight million students of all educational stages they return to classrooms in person, although in communities like the Basque Country it was ahead of last Friday. Students return with the incidence of cases per omicron triggered, the recommendation of more flexible quarantines (classrooms will only be confined if there are five positives or more than 20% of the class infected), reinforcements from regional governments in light of the foreseeable increase in casualties among teachers and with ongoing child vaccination among the youngest (5 to 11 years).

The high level of transmission of the virus put on the table the possibility that the ‘return to school’ after the Christmas holidays would be delayed and not in person, but finally Health and communities agreed unanimously keep schools open. A measure supported by experts who advise reinforcing other guidelines such as cross ventilation, bubble groups, taking temperature and the mandatory use of masks also outdoors from the age of six.

Regarding the security of the face-to-face return to the educational centers, the co-director of the Institute of Health and Strategy, Rafael Bengoa, explained in an interview with TVE that “it seems sensible because the other alternative would be to test children with rapid antigen tests. In France, where school started a week ago, this has created a very complex situation. “

“Schools are the last thing that should be closed and the first thing that should be opened”said Óscar Zurriaga, vice president of the Spanish Epidemiology Society (SEE), who added that schools and institutes “are spaces where transmission control is exercised quite well.” And it provided a conclusive reasoning:Closed schools means children at home cared for by grandparents. “

Meanwhile it continues the childhood vaccination campaign which started on December 15 with the rise of cases. The average number of children who have received at least one puncture has not yet reached one in three in the 5 to 11 age group, which is equivalent to 32.1% (1,076,522 minors). Galicia, with 53.8%, Cantabria, with 45% and Asturias, with 40.9%, are the communities that have inoculated the most doses.

Less rigid quarantines

After the debate, the centers open their doors with a common framework to confine the classes to the sixth wave with a view to reinforcing presence. The Public Health Commission, made up of representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Autonomous Communities, agreed last Friday to recommend quarantine for an entire classroom as long as there are at least 5 cases of COVID, or at least 20% of the cases are affected. students, in a period equal to or less than 7 days.

The recommendation also includes that in case there are 4 cases or less than 20%, they would be considered sporadic cases and no quarantine would be necessary.

Catalonia was the only autonomy that voted against, pointing out that it was too “hasty” the protocol change to inform citizens and the educational community, although they have indicated that they will abide by the agreement.

Other regions such as Madrid and Andalusia had already decided on changes to quarantines. Madrid announced that in general, and in sporadic cases, will not be carried out and before the appearance of outbreaks -which is considered from 3 or more-, Public Health will indicate the actions to be followed.

Faced with the imminent start of classes, many communities they have updated their protocols e they incorporate small novelties with respect to what has been done.

For example, in the Basque Country one of the changes refers to bubble groups in Primary, since they are again limited to the classroom after the possibility was opened last October that these could interact abroad with students from different classes of the same course.

In Asturias, the centers must also reinforce security measures and the mask will be mandatory indoors and outdoors (Until now it was allowed to do without it in the courtyard if you kept your distance). It also contemplates the suspension, until April 8, of complementary and extracurricular activities that involve spending the night.

The protocol of the Principality includes the obligation that each unit have a C02 meter and the recommendation that teacher and group meetings with families be telematic, whenever possible.

Dismissal among teachers

Other of the foreseeable problems of the ‘back to school’ are the casualties due to COVID-19 among teachers that will emerge this Monday as many teachers are confined. Communities seek solutions against the clock such as contracting by phone to streamline bureaucratic procedures as is the case in Andalusia and Castilla-La Mancha. Other regions such as Murcia and Aragon have launched extraordinary calls for interim contracts.

Directors of colleges and institutes can be seen “Without enough teachers and even having to close classrooms, at least Monday and Tuesday due to lack of educational personnel, and even more days ”, several unions warn about the situation in the Community of Madrid, while CCOO describes this situation as” irresponsible “and accuses the council of” abandon the directors “, collects Efe.

For the unions of the Education Sector Board -CCOO, ANPE, CSIF and UGT- the solution is to reinforce the workforce and rehire “At least to the 7,000 interim” that were left out last year.

The data on infections in the classrooms in the non-university educational system have been maintained throughout the school year with a number of quarantined classrooms below 0.5%. However, with the growth of omicron, a maximum peak was reached on December 22, the day of the beginning of the school holidays, with 1.3% of classrooms in quarantine, a percentage slightly below the maximums registered last year , between 1.6% and 1.7%.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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