STA, 29 April 2020 - Schools and kindergartens in Slovenia will start reopening on 18 May in what will be a gradual process, Education Minister Simona Kustec announced after a cabinet session on Wednesday. Only the youngest and oldest students will return to classrooms, all others will end the year at home.
"This will be a thought-out, gradual measure. We'll do this just for certain groups and certain grades and under the very clear precondition that we will have precise instructions and guidelines for teachers, students and parents," she told public broadcaster TV Slovenija.
Kindergartens will reopen first and classes will start in the first three grades of primary schools and for final-year students at secondary schools. Next, final-year students of primary schools will return to class "so that they may complete their primary education in the usual way," she told POP TV.
Other students will "complete the school year remotely," said Kustec. "This is the way instruction is already carried out and this is how it is going to end."
The measure appears designed to allow parents of small children who cannot be home alone to return to work as portions of the economy which had been shut down gradually restart operation.
Before students return to school, the ministry will issue detailed guidelines on protective measures that both students and teachers will have to take. The information will be circulated next week.
"It is necessary to provide the conditions and the appropriate safety equipment so that it is possible to safely re-enter these organised forms of education," said Kustec.
While Kustec did not disclose the details of protective measures, Simona Perčič of the National Institute of Public Health told TV Slovenija that classes will probably be split into two to make sure there is enough space between students.
Hand sanitizer will have to be available and use of face masks will be mandatory from age 12. Younger children will not be required to wear masks since they are not able to use them properly, she said.
Schools and kindergartens closed on 16 March as one of the first measures to fight the Covid-19 epidemic. Home schooling was launched immediately and after significant problems were reported in the initial weeks, the ministry says 99.5% of students now take part in remote learning.
The news comes after Prime Minister Janez Janša announced a gradual easing of measures starting with the lifting of a ban on inter-municipal travel on 30 April and a series of measures to follow after Labour Day weekend.
The details of the plan are to be presented at the daily government coronavirus briefing on Thursday morning.