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Education Ministry waiting for trade union’s opinion before unveiling school protocols

In anticipation of detailed protocols on the reopening of schools as of September 1 and how they will operate, the Ministry of Education and Science has published guidelines manual for maintenance of school buildings accompanied by a video.

Skopje, 5 August 2020 (MIA) – In anticipation of detailed protocols on the reopening of schools as of September 1 and how they will operate, the Ministry of Education and Science has published guidelines manual for maintenance of school buildings accompanied by a video.

The working group, comprised of officials of the Education Ministry and the Commission for Infectious Diseases, has revealed its position ahead of the start of the 2020/2021 school year – students should be physically present in classes in schools, which provide adequate conditions depending on the epidemiological situation in a region.

The protocols should be adopted by the government at a session. It is unlikely that the government will adopt them at today’s session later in the day, Deputy Education Minister Elizabeta Naumovska has told MIA.

According to her, the trade union of teachers SONK is yet to evaluate the classroom models that are being proposed.

SONK head Jakim Nedelkov told MIA that the trade union of teachers wasn’t included in the Ministry’s working group and wasn’t consulted on the protocols.

“We were neither asked nor consulted even though the teachers will be required to implement these protocols. We are not saying their are bad, but we do believe we should’ve been involved. After the trade union’s reactions, the Education Minister contacted me and asked for our opinion. Through our network, we are working on finding the most appropriate solutions concerning the draft-protocols,” he said, adding the trade union would sent its views on the matter to the Education Ministry on Thursday.

Safety of all teachers and school staff as well as of the children is our top priority, Nedelkov stressed. “Every municipality should draft its own protocol according to its conditions and online learning should be applied only where it’s absolutely necessary,” he said.

On Wednesday, Deputy Minister Naumovska reiterated that the protocols will be made public no later than August 10.

The working group of the Ministry and the Commission for Infectious Diseases at their meetings discussed details for protocols taking into consideration several scenarios involving bigger and smaller municipalities, the size of schools and their premises, number of students, their age, protocols for children with chronic illnesses, etc.

“Generally, we believe that students should go back to school and to adhere to the anti-coronavirus measures. It will depend of the regions, whether they are affected by the new virus or not. Students being physically present at classes is important for us, mainly for the pupils in first, second and third grade. They cannot learn sitting in front of computers and we also have in mind their socialization,” stated Naumovska.

Distant learning, she said, would be introduced only if there is growing threat from the new virus and it can be combined with another model.

Combined learning would be applied in large classes, meaning students from one class will go to school while the rest will follow the lectures online. They will be required to rotate every two weeks.

Regardless of which classroom model will be chosen, classes will last less than 45 minutes. Pupils in lower grades will attend 20-minute classes. An e-learning platform will be designed by the schools individually and they may differ from each other.

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