Europe’s back-to-school plan by making Face masks, smaller classes and distanced desks

Europe’s back-to-school plan by making Face masks, smaller classes and distanced desks

Across Europe, the start of the new school year was meant to signal a return to normality.

Countries such as Italy kept pupils at home from March to the summer holidays, while others such as Denmark allowed schools to reopen for the remainder of the term after the worst of the pandemic’s first wave had passed.

All tried to reassure parents and children that in-person teaching would restart in the fall.

Yet the planned reopening of schools could not come at a worse time: Many European countries, from Spain to Poland, are experiencing an uptick in coronavirus cases. Already the spike has forced some schools to close their doors again, including in the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern where four schools had to partly shut after reopening last week due to coronavirus cases.

It doesn’t help that it remains uncertain what role schools play in the transmission of the virus. Far fewer cases have been detected in children than adults, but scientists still aren’t sure how likely children are to pass the virus on to others.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said this month that evidence suggests “that re-opening schools has not been associated with significant increases in community transmission,” but it acknowledged that there was “conflicting published evidence” on the impact of school closures and reopenings.

Yet parents and pupils have more to worry about than potential health risks: early surveys have found that the school closures have had negative effects on the education and wellbeing of many children and teenagers, while parents have struggled to cope with combining remote work and homeschooling.

“The major fear is of another lockdown and that we have to go back to homeschooling,” said Cristina Tagliabue, an Italian mother who co-founded a protest movement that saw families and teaching staff take to the streets in 60 Italian cities this summer.

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