Only special needs schools opening next week

Ljubljana – Schools and kindergartens will not reopen next week, with pupils in grades one to three and preschoolers perhaps returning on 11 January, Education Minister Simon Kustec said at the government press briefing on Thursday. The plan for special needs schools and institutions remains unchanged and they are to reopen on 5 January.

Preschoolers and pupils in the first three grades will return once the epidemiological situation improves, said Kustec.

A day before the special needs schools reopen, the staff will undergo voluntary rapid testing and the plan is the same for the reopening of all other schools.

Kustec encouraged all teachers and other staff to get tested, not only before coming back to school but also later on, if they feel like they need to get tested.

The Education Ministry has been saying for weeks that schools might reopen on 4 January if the epidemiological situation improves.

Now, with new infections remaining at high levels, only special needs schools will reopen following an order to this effect from the Constitutional Court.

Kustec said the return of other children will depend on the epidemiological situation. In the best case scenario, more pupils could return to classrooms “in the second half of the same week”.

The next groups of pupils slated to return to school are the first three grades of primary school, followed by grades four and five, and final-year students in secondary schools.

Kustec said preventive testing would be crucial before teachers can return, and later. “I expect and wish that they understand why testing is necessary and important.”

SVIZ, the main trade union of teachers, earlier this week voiced concern about testing arguing that there was no legal basis for such regular tests. It said that given the large number of schools and teachers, it was necessary to put in place a suitable system.

The minister noted that public health guidelines for schools had been set in spring but might be re-evaluated if it turns out things can be optimised.

She also acknowledged that many people were angry at schools being closed, and said she was angered herself and wanted children and teachers to return to classrooms as soon as possible.

“It is clear to me that motivation is declining. Let’s press on a while longer,” she said, noting that “two months without normal school is definitely too much.”