Schools closing again on Monday in two regions after infections increased
Ljubljana - The Ministry of Education has notified schools in Zasavje and Obalno-Kraška regions that schools and kindergartens will have to close once again on Monday. The decision comes only two days after pupils of the first three grades and kindergartners were allowed back in nine of Slovenia's 12 administrative regions after more than three months.
The two regions have slipped back into black tier and the government decided on Wednesday that all non-essential services would shut down once again, leaving the decision on schools for today.
The closure comes less than a week after the government decided to allow in-person education for the youngest children and kindergartners, and some additional services to reopen.
Speaking to the press after the government session, Education Minister Simona Kustec said the government also introduced a key change, allowing schools to provide childcare to graders one through three whose parents work in essential infrastructure and security services.
Commenting on the decision to close the schools in the two regions, Kustec said Slovenia has entered a period of constant change and the the government followed closely its epidemic exit plan, under which schools in black-tiered regions are closed.
A number of school heads who will have to switch to remote teaching again next week have expressed regret and disappointment with the decision, with many pointing out that the situation had worsened in their region due to an increase in the number of infections in care homes.
They underlined that the rules of social distancing are being upheld at schools and several have said that their entire staff had tested negative for the coronavirus earlier this week.
Apart from Zasavje and Obalno-Kraška regions, Goriška, Posavska and Southeastern Slovenia are also in black tier.
In black-tiered regions only stores selling mostly groceries are allowed to remain open, as well as some services, such as hair dressers. Kindergartens provide child care only to children whose parents cannot arrange any other form of child care.
Meanwhile, special needs schools remain open also in the black-tiered regions, with staff obligated to get tested once again on Monday.
Exceptions to a ban on gathering in schools remain in place, so as to allow school councillors to provide emergency aid to children and to allow schools to carry out procedures related to completion or continuation of schooling, such as enrolment.
In the seven red-tiered regions, children will remain at home on Monday, as staff will get tested for coronavirus again, Kustec also said.
The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) has advised the government to prioritise keeping the schools open if the situation deteriorates, closing instead other potential locations of infection transmission.
Bojana Beović, the head of the government's coronavirus advisory group, meanwhile told the press today that they did not have a position on whether it was sensible to close schools again after only a week.
"My personal belief is that it is unpleasant to close schools after only a week and that it would be good to take a look at regions individually," Beović said.