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A second wave of COVID-19 would not close all schools in Estonia

Empty classroom. (photo is illustrative)
Empty classroom. (photo is illustrative) Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

If the epidemiological situation in Estonia does not change drastically, schools will begin classes in the autumn as usual. If any cases of COVID-19 are discovered, the cases will be assessed individually and all schools would not be immediately closed.

The hallways of Pirita High School of Economics in July are inherently empty. Toomas Pikhof, the director of the school, explained to ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Tuesday that as of now, school will start in September as usual.

Pikhof said: "We have worked out two plans with the school's management. One plan is that it will be a regular school year and the other plan is one where we have taken a look at all moments of risk. But as of now, as we have agreed with Tallinn Education Department, if there are no further directives, we will begin school as usual."

The usual situation now, after the first emergency situation in Estonian history, means plenty of disinfectant stations in schools. The teachers of Pirita High School of Economics can also wear special visors, provided by the school.

The Health Board (Terviseamet) also agrees the school year should start on September 1.

If an infected person or persons are discovered in the school, it would not mean all schools in Estonia would be closed.

Irina Dontšenko, epidemiologist at the Health Board, explained: "We believe that a decision could be made regarding a specific school, maybe schools in the region depending on the infection rate of the region."

She added that if the situation warrants it, perhaps only the activities of one class could be suspended.

The Health Board has previously said restrictions will be considered if 325 new cases are discovered over two weeks. That also applies to schools.

Dontšenko said: "Until that number, no serious steps need to be taken."

The Ministry of Education and Research is currently creating a set of directives and regulations for schools on how to manage if they need to be closed temporarily.

Robert Lippin, deputy secretary general of the Ministry of Education and Research, said: "They (the directives - ed.) are markedly connected to cooperation. The educational institution and what is happening there is not just connected to the director's responsibility, but also to the municipal government as the school's administrator. The cooperation between teachers and what common information solutions are used."

The lack of a central information system was one of the main points of concern among teachers during the emergency situation. There will be no such system going forward, but the ministry does have some recommendations.

Lippin said: "There is no need to use 10-20 different solutions in one school. We should try to limit that number. It is obvious that there is no possibility of one central system, teachers are different and subjects are different. But a school could agree to use certain solutions."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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