The coronavirus measures to be followed at public schools will also be followed at private schools, Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said on Monday.
“The private schools will follow the measures necessary for the safety of the children, the teachers, and all the workers in the education sector,” Prodromou said after a meeting with the parents’ association of private schools.
He said two dedicated telephone lines will be operational at the ministry, one for teachers, who need guidance on dealing with the protocols, and one for parents, where they can receive information about the measures.
He also said the state is looking into providing single desks for students or two larger desks joined together for three students, so as to cover the spacing requirements set out by the World Health Organisation, which states there should be a metre of space between each student.
The protocols include the use of face masks by all over the age of six, which has been opposed by the primary school teaching union, Poed, the student coordinating committee (Psem) and the primary school parents’ group.
The primary school parents’ group head Sotiris Christophi said they will meet later on Monday to discuss the coronavirus protocols for schools.
Christophi had expressed his group’s opposition to the use of face masks for such young children last Friday, when Prodromou announced the mandatory use of face masks for everyone aged over six.
On Monday, he said: “We had had a concise and clear picture from the education ministry that masks would not be used at primary schools, but we then learned something else on Friday.”
Christophi said the group will ask Prodromou to select other proposals put before him, including the use of single desks.
Later in the day, Prodromou discussed the new measures including the mandatory masks with the head of Poed, Rea Papageorgiou.
“I explained to the minister the concerns and worries of the teachers for children ages 6 to 12 in the primary and specialised schools.” Papageorgiou said.
She added Prodromou said he will speak about the issue with the health ministry, as the World Health Organisation recommendations could lead to a decision change.
She added the goal of the education ministry is to push for masks not to be required for children under grade 6 in primary school.
Psem, meanwhile, said the ministry has been ‘sloppy’ in opening schools, set to welcome students on September 7.
They accused the ministry of only saying masks will be mandatory at schools, without giving other guidelines on scheduling and how the schools will function.
On masks, Psem posed several questions to the ministry, which were unanswered.
“Who will pay for the masks, the state or each individual family? Were the climate conditions taken into consideration, along with the lack of air conditioning in many classrooms? And, if a student decides one day to not wear mask for any reason, what will happen?”
They also accused the ministry of dragging its feet on the technological upgrades necessary at the schools, despite advertising them.
Psem added the students have not been informed about how schools will function, nor how they will deal with a potential rise in cases.
“Unfortunately, it is already too late. Whatever measures the education ministry decides now, will be difficult to enforce correctly with just one week left,” Psem said.