As part of its efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the City of Tallinn has decided to postpone high school entrance exams until May 9. Schools will keep applicants up to date on the situation.
Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) said that the entrance exams for Tallinn high schools involve not only students from the capital city but also from elsewhere in the country.
"Having analyzed and assessed the current situation and based on Health Board recommendations, we have decided to postpone high school entrance exams," Kõlvart said. "We will thereby protect students' health as well as mitigate possible risk factors."
The earliest entrance exams had been scheduled for this upcoming weekend.
"We want to prevent the spread of the disease so that we don't have to deal with the consequences," the mayor explained, adding that as Tallinn is Estonia's biggest local government, it has decided to take preventive measures against the spread of the virus.
"At the same time, we are preparing for a situation in which all schools would be capable of switching to offsite instruction if necessary," he continued. "The exception would be schools for children with special educational needs, which we are handling separately as in their case we cannot talk about e-learning opportunities."
Gustav Adolf High School, Tallinn English College, Tallinn Secondary School of Science and Tallinn School No. 21 had already announced that it had decided to postpone their joint entrance exams, which were originally scheduled to take place this Saturday, March 14.
In addition to these four schools, Tallinn Joint High School, Westholm High School and Kadriorg German High School likewise typically hold joint entrance exams.
Gustav Adolf High School principal Henrik Salum told ERR on Wednesday that a new date for joint entrance exams has not yet been determined, but that this would be done soon. "We are waiting for the mayor's directive; then we can plan," he said.
Salum added that the decision would be made as soon as possible, and that it would not be a matter of weeks.
School closures on case-by-case basis
The principals of Central Tallinn schools met with Tallinn Education Department director Andres Pajula on Wednesday.
Salum said that the meeting focused more on mapping out the current situation and opportunities, and that no concrete decisions were made. "We will inform entrance exam participants as soon as possible," he added.
Tallinn's crisis committee on Tuesday discussed schools' preparedness to switch to e-learning in order to avoid spreading the coronavirus. The Health Board is advising schools to close only once the spread of the virus has gone local.
According to Kõlvart, there is currently no need to close down all Tallinn schools, but should more cases appear among students, the city will decide school by school.
"The Ministry of Education and Research has already begun preparations to ensure that schools are prepared to switch to e-learning if necessary," the mayor said. "When it comes to kindergartens, we will address possible cases of infection by class."
Tartu schools discussing matter
Tartu Education Department director Riho Raave told ERR that as high school entrance exams in Tartu aren't until April 17, there is still time to monitor and assess the situation.
"We are aware that the situation may change in connection with the coronavirus and it is possible that we may have to make such a decision," Raave said. "As the high schools hold their entrance exams together, they will meet next week to discuss what will become of the exams. The education department here won't really dictate anything, but we will be here to provide advice and support."
The entrance exams being scheduled for mid-April doesn't leave much room to postpone them, but according to Raave, no one is considering moving them up either.
"There isn't much room, but these opportunities are being weighed and opportunities will be found," he added.
Editor: Aili Vahtla