Tallinn schools implementing distance learning in different ways

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

High school students in Tallinn will start part-time distance learning next week and schools are preparing for the change in different ways.

ETV's evening news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" and ERR spoke with several schools on Thursday and teachers and principals have mixed opinions on the new rules.

By the start of school year on September 1, Tallinn's schools were prepared to respond to the virus and had prepared crisis plans. The start of the school day was staggered as were meal breaks. However, things have not always gone according to plan.

Director of Tallinn Mustamäe Real High School Natalja Vergun said the school tried to separate students at the beginning of the lessons, but parents still brought children to school at 8 a.m. and so the change was abandoned.

Speaking about the school's distance learning plans, she said: "High school students, as well as older elementary students, will be at home one day a week and then they will study at a distance."

The new rules will be implemented for pupils in the eighth grade and above and schools have been given room to implement the new rules how they see fit.

Director of Gustav Adolf Gymnasium Henrik Salum said the high school and third grade will alternate for distance learning every week.

The principal of Tallinn German Gymnasium Kaarel Rundu said the school will partly move to distance learning on Monday and will install a thermal scanner on Friday. "I think all that reduces and prevents this spring scenario," he said.

The principal of Tallinn English College Toomas Kruusimägi told ERR the school is waiting for advice from Tallinn. The school had already formed a plan to have classes alternate between distance learning and in-class lessons from the start of the school year.

The school year started as normal this year, with all students being sent back to learn in classrooms after distance learning was introduced at the start of the emergency situation in March.

However, on Wednesday, Tallinn City Government said it would move pupils studying in the eighth grade and above to distance learning from Monday due to the rising coronavirus infection rate in Tallinn.

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) on Thursday explained the decision was made by the Tallinn Crisis Committee.  However, in his opinion, the city is just following the guidelines issued by the Health Board.

"If we look at the instructions from the Health Board, then it is written down how to behave, if there are a lot of people in the premises, it is not possible to avoid contact between people," Kõlvart said on Thursday and listed the instructions: keep your distance, disperse people, use masks.

According to Kõlvart, the choice is very simple: either the city starts to anticipate the situation in the schools or waits for when the infection strikes them and the schools have to be closed one by one.

He emphasized that everything must be done to keep kindergartens and primary schools open and said there was no excuse for younger children not going to school.

The move was criticized on Wednesday by the head of the government's advisor council Professor Irja Lutsar as being an overreaction and parents have been unsupportive of the policy.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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