Schools return from Thursday.

09-09-2020Luca Piergiovanni

The Balearic education minister, Martí March, has called on families and the whole educational community to collaborate with the return to school. Speaking on Wednesday, March said that he understood parents' anxieties but stressed that schools are safer than other environments. "We do not want to delay the school year. We have made the decision with the health ministry. Delaying school would not be a solution." He noted that all other regions, with the exception of Asturias, are going ahead with the return to school.

The minister stated that there will be 170,369 students, 110 more than in September last year, and that there will be 560 more teachers. Investment in cleaning schools has increased 20%. For school cafeteria, there will be 190 more monitors.

Class sizes, March explained, will be around 20. In some schools this may be more if they can meet requirements such as the 1.5 metre distance. Schools, he noted, have increased the amount of space and will be taking advantage of places being made available by town halls - 67 in all.

In the event of teachers testing positive, March said that there is a group of "rapid intervention" teachers who can immediately replace any teachers who need to isolate at home.

The increase in the number of students, 110, is much lower than normal. The additional intake is typically around 2,000. It is being suggested that the economic crisis caused by Covid-19 is the reason.

March also spoke about the response to absenteeism. It will be up to the prosecution service for minors to decide whether there should be prosecutions of parents who insist on keeping their children away from school.

Early childhood education, he said, is not compulsory but is "practically universal". School is compulsory between the ages of six and sixteen. If there is higher absenteeism than in previous years, education inspectors will intervene and will, if necessary, ask the prosecution service to make decisions.

Schools, he said, will call parents to find out reasons for absence. Town hall police tutors will then be involved if there is not a satisfactory reason, while making this a "criminal matter must be the last resort".

With regard to pupils who have health problems, the health ministry will verify these and recommend whether pupils should attend school or not. In such cases, the education ministry will provide a teaching solution to compensate for absence. There are, March noted, very few students in the Balearics with health conditions that are serious enough to prevent them from going to school.

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