Facing criticism, officials say schools prepared

Ljubljana/Brdo pri Kranju – With the start of the school year only a week away and facing criticism about inadequate preparedness, education officials provided assurances on Monday that educational institutions are prepared for another year of coronavirus restrictions.

Schools and kindergartens will operate according to what is called model B, which means in-person instruction for all children, mandatory masks for older children, distancing, extensive ventilation, and mandatory Covid certificates for staff.

Damir Orehovec, a state secretary at the Education Ministry, acknowledged at a conference for head teachers today that the rules concerning Covid certificates have not been finalised yet.

At present unvaccinated teachers have to be tested by an official provider of testing once a week, but it is likely that self-testing will be introduced soon.

Parents who wish to enter school or kindergarten premises will have to show a Covid certificate as well. It remains unclear who will check parents’ status, though.

The rules for the school year have been issued in a 140-page publication for educational institutions and were presented today at the onset of a three-day conference for head teachers.

Vinko Logaj, the head of the National Education Institute, expects that the school year will start and finish in-person.

“The protocols that some schools have already finalised and others are still supplementing will make it possible to successfully carry out instruction in this school year,” he said.

Education Minister Simona Kustec was supposed to address the head teachers as well but she has contracted Covid-19 and is isolating at home with severe symptoms.

Responding to calls that she should resign, she said in a written message that she would “not accept threats, insults and unsubstantiated shaming, or attempt to dehumanise by those … who abuse the educational system for their narrow, egotistic and often partisan interests”.

Messages about sufficient preparedness were also delivered at a session of the parliamentary Education Committee, called at the request of the opposition with the argument that preparations for another epidemic school year have not been sufficient.

Education Ministry State Secretary Mitja Slavinec said the planned measures were a compromise between efforts to secure a safe learning environment and effective instruction.

He said the situation was changing fast and that restrictions were unpredictable, noting that it would be easy to set very strict rules from the start, like Italy did, but that the main goal of the restrictions was to keep schools open as long as possible.

The statement came after the centre-left opposition claimed the government was a complete failure when it came to getting schools ready.

Marko Koprivc, an MP for the Social Democrats (SD), said on behalf of the opposition that with one week to go before classes start, teachers still did not have any information and it was unclear what kind of restrictions will be in place.

He accused Minister Kustec of being “incompetent” and urged her to resign, while calling on the government to finally start working and make sure instruction can proceed normally.