Ministry proposes self-testing for teachers in new school year

Ljubljana – Education officials would like to see in-person learning in the new academic year, said the Education Ministry after Wednesday’s meeting with head teachers, who lament a lack of concrete guidelines. The ministry has urged the government to green-light self-testing for teachers.

This comes after the ministry proposed voluntary self-testing for secondary school students and pupils in the last three grades of primary school. It was decided today that the former would need to get tested once a week or more often if the epidemiological situation deteriorates.

The decision on these requirements will be up to the government and its Covid-19 advisory group, which will meet this evening to discuss the matter as well as other prevention measures to contain the rising infections.

Health Ministry State Secretary Damir Orehovec said that the ministry would strive to make sure schools stay open as long as possible. The officials would like to see them remain open even if the situation deteriorates further.

He noted that the tested-vaccinated-recovered rule will have to be observed in education, calling on school and kindergarten workers to get vaccinated. “Anyone who will not be vaccinated would have to get tested three times per week,” he said.

If the requirements are approved by the advisory group and government, the academic year will run more smoothly, the state secretary added.

Asked about who will pay for coronavirus tests, he reiterated that employers will cover the cost of self-testing. In the case of secondary students aged 18 or above he hopes the tests will be free of charge.

Orehovec told the press that the ministry had received public health recommendations for schools last month, noting that each school should apply ventilation measures according to its infrastructure.

Masks will remain mandatory in all communal school venues except for classrooms to set up a system of social bubbles. In the case of older students, they will be required to wear masks even in classrooms.

Orehovec could not explain whether a failure to comply with this rule could end in sanctions.

Primary school head teachers said they did not find the meeting useful, lamenting a lack of concrete answers. The head of their association Gregor Pečan told the newspaper Delo that there had never been so much bluffing at the ministry as it was right now.

The only useful outcome was a proposal by Milan Krek, the head of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), to call a meeting between public health officials and a group of head teachers to work out the remaining issues, the head teacher of the Livada primary school Goran Popović told the STA.

Representatives of secondary school head teachers also expected more specific solutions, however both groups were pleased to have met with the ministry officials.

Orehovec vowed today that a clearer strategy for the 2021-22 school year will be available next week at the latest, Fani Al-Mansour, the head of the secondary school representatives, told the STA.

The ministry also urged compliance with the Covid certificate for secondary students in the event of a worsened epidemiological status, but for now this condition will not apply.

Education Minister Simona Kustec, who has recently tested positive for coronavirus, and her ministry had drawn much criticism over the past few weeks over what school officials as well as the opposition saw as a lack of action to make sure the new school year goes smoothly.

The four centre-left opposition parties have announced they are planning to file a no confidence motion against Kustec over this.