Efforts to reopen schools continue

Ljubljana – After protests calling against closure of schools in black-tiered regions were held in a number of towns this weekend, calls for reopening of schools from a several stakeholders continued on Monday.

The Headteachers’ Association president Gregor Pečan intends to urge the government to reopen schools in the entire country if coronavirus testing among teachers conducted today shows no significant increase since a week ago.

In case of breakouts, the situation should be addressed locally, with individual classes going into isolation and switching to distance learning, he said.

Until 5pm today, 16,590 tests were conducted among teachers who teach in person with 229 coming back positive for a positivity rate of 1.4% – the same share as a week ago when 17,435 test were performed until 5pm and 244 returned positive, the Health Ministry told the STA.

Pečan said he believed most schools managed to provide today’s mandatory testing without having to close for the day.

Currently, kindergartens and children in years one through three are back in schools in seven of Slovenia’s 12 statistical regions. Schools and kindergartens in black-tiered regions are closed, providing only emergency childcare.

On Tuesday, schools reopened in nine regions, but only two days later the government decided that they close again in the Obalno-Kraška and Zasavje regions after the two regions slipped back into black tier due to an increase in coronavirus cases.

The decision was met with much disapproval and several hundred parents in the two regions, but also elsewhere, took to the streets this weekend.

Today, parents left their children’s school bags in front of several schools in Zasavje and on the coast, while a school on the coast saw pupils boycotting remote lessons, public broadcaster TV Slovenija reported.

Many parents do not agree with the closure, because the bulk of the new infections in the regions that slipped back into black were detected among elderly residents of care homes.

While protests are expected this afternoon as well, director of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) Milan Krek warned that they were sources of infection. “What’s more, children took part as well. If any of them is infected, everybody will be,” Krek warned.

The left-leaning opposition parties believe that schools should reopen as well, with the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), the Social Democrats (SD), the Left and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) requesting an emergency session of the parliamentary Education Committee.

They intend to use the session to exert pressure to achieve that all children return to classrooms and kindergartens, said SAB deputy group head Maša Kociper.

Luka Mesec of the Left said that the opening and closing of schools indicated a complete lack of care for children and parents. He believes that the only way for the situation to improve is to “change the government as soon as possible”.

Meanwhile, the education faculties of the Ljubljana and Primorska universities called on Education Minister Simona Kustec to allow the youngest pupils back into the classrooms.