All the educational centers in Spain have been closed since the first phase of the covid-19 epidemic as a measure to contain the transmission of the disease and due to the high density of schoolchildren, some seven million in the country, who attend all the phases of formal education. Despite the fact that the role of minors in the transmission of the disease is not clear, the intention was to avoid a possible increase in infections and infections with coronavirus during the current health crisis. These were the fundamental reasons alleged by the Government to close the centers. “With the acquired knowledge, it has been established that children are not a particularly vulnerable population to the effects of coronavirus infection. There are serious cases, but they are infrequent, ”according to Spanish pediatricians.
The closure of schools has brought about a change in the educational paradigm that has brought distance education, digital, to the front line. But it has not been equally accessible to everyone, denoting the emptiness and inequality that exists in this type of education and that many have classified as “emergency”, but that recognize that it will be unsustainable when many parents return to their face-to-face jobs. . In Phase 2 of the de-escalation stipulated by the health authorities, some centers may already open their doors, but under what conditions? How should it be done?
In a document prepared by the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP), an organization made up of some 14,000 experts, it is emphasized that “going back to school should be done with the appropriate measures from a public health perspective and always protecting the safety of schoolchildren and the minimum risk of transmission ”. They also add that face-to-face reincorporation to schools “is done in compliance with the right of all minors to learning and socialization, both basic needs for their development. All this contemplated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN) ”.
For pediatricians, as long as the epidemiological situation allows it, “the reopening of educational centers should be gradual, progressive and based on age groups, and always have an impact, minimizing the risk of new infections.”
Reopening by ages and educational phases
Kindergartens / nursery schools (from zero to three years): for pediatricians it is the area of greatest risk due to the enormous difficulty of complying with isolation measures. They recommend that these centers not be opened until there is full control of the epidemic. Among the solutions that they mention to face the great disorder that this decision can cause in families, they cite as conciliation options: the extension of paternity or maternity leave until 12 months, being able to have access to caregivers at home who, even, allow the care of up to five children in the same house, among others.
Early Childhood Education, three to five years: In this age group, the risk remains high. Prolonged use of masks is not recommended, but the maximum possible social distance should be extreme. After-school sessions, in which it is more difficult to maintain distance, should be avoided and training in protective measures against coronavirus infection, such as constant handwashing, among others, should be promoted.
Over five years to 11 years (Primary Education): the reopening should be gradual and with groups with a reduced number of children, “of no more than 15 minors; organize in morning or afternoon class shifts or alternate days “, among other measures. Teachers and center workers should also promote training in protective measures against coronavirus infection in this age group.
Secondary Education (12 to 18 years old): It is estimated that the risk of contagion should be lower because the students would already know the prevention and hygiene measures against covid-19. The distribution of students, split schedules and face-to-face classes should be similar to Primary Education, but prioritizing the most essential subjects as face-to-face and considering in this period very important to include the alternative educational day at home, in the morning or afternoon for online work. It is necessary to consider that minors under 14 years of age cannot remain alone at home and it will be necessary to provide for the accompaniment of parents / adults, also adapting their workday or, even, with teachers displaced to homes, among other measures.
The ASP recommends that schools follow the health recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) that can be found here.
Prioritize aid to the most vulnerable students
It is recommended to prioritize pedagogical reinforcement and comprehensive attention to the needs of children or adolescents in any of the risk situations:
Single-parent families without social support network or with incompatibility of schedules with work.
Situation of family economic precariousness, technological poverty or of any other type.
Suspected abuse or violence in the family environment.
Bullying in any form.
Special needs for suffering from maturational disorder, chronic or psychological illnesses.
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