Pupils not returning to schools, all switching to distance learning

Ljubljana – After two weeks of holidays, primary school pupils will not return to schools on Monday due to the coronavirus situation in Slovenia, as distance learning will be introduced once again. Secondary schools have already launched remote teaching at the beginning of this week.

Kindergartens remain closed as well, but childcare will continue to be available to parents who work in vital services.

Education Minister Simona Kustec said that the government would review the decision in a week, either extending or ending the measure.

Universities and other higher education institutions also remain in remote schooling mode. Moreover, schools for children and adults with special needs will remain closed as well.

The latter, especially, can be demanding for students, parents and teachers, with the minister saying a special memo had been sent to special needs teachers, adding it was expected the teachers did their best for special needs education to be as normal as possible.

When asked whether the government had considered reopening schools that have few or no coronavirus cases, Kustec said that the Slovenian Constitution stipulates that all students get the same access to education, meaning that school must be the same for everybody.

The government has instructed schools and local communities to organise free meals for underprivileged children, which will be covered by the state budget.

Municipalities and schools are to invite parents and children to apply for meals, which they will be able to pick up at their school. Lunch deliveries are also to be organised for children who cannot pick up their meals.

The Association of Towns and Municipalities (SOS) has meanwhile said that meals should be organised by the state and primary schools, adding that municipalities can assist the schools if required.

The association noted that under the law, the state provides funds for education programme, while local communities are obligated to maintain and invest in infrastructure. In line with this, it is also the state’s obligation to provide warm meals to pupils in emergency situations.

The Ljubljana municipality also responded by saying that it cannot take on this obligation. Organising meals in this way, in Ljubljana this would amount to 5,000-6,000 a day, is impossible and irrational, the city said. It proposed that children be allowed to come to school to eat, adding also it would be even better if schools reopen completely.

The Education Ministry forwarded to the STA on Tuesday numbers showing the extent of coronavirus infections in schools and kindergartens.

In kindergartens, 524 members or 3.74% of all staff have contracted the coronavirus since the beginning of the school year in September. Additional 637 staff (4.55%) have been quarantined.

In primary schools, the number of reached 1,207 (4.84% of staff), with additional 1,261 people (some 5%) in quarantine, while in secondary schools, it reached 110 (1.18%), with another 1,261 in quarantine (just over 5%).