AK: Schools puzzled by latest government plans

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Students at the Hille Hanssoo school in Paide. Source: ERR

Schools have expressed confusion over a government order which will send students on their Christmas vacation early, from next Monday, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Wednesday evening.

Kersti Kivisoo, director of the Hillar Hanssoo school in Paide told AK that it was still not clear whether Monday spelled full closure or a return to the remote learning which schools used during the first coronavirus wave in spring.

Kivisoo said: "There is still confusion at the moment, since we do not know exactly whether we will go on an actual break or start distance learning. We are waiting for a decision on Thursday."

The government announcement Wednesday looked like an about turn on what two ministers said Tuesday about not favoring even sending schools in the worst-hit region in the pandemic at present, Ida-Viru County, on remote learning, let along closing for Christmas.

However, the government had also said it would make a decision and announce it Thursday, leaving plenty of people scratching their heads following Wednesday's declaration.

Staff at the Ülejõgi school in Pärnu said they didn't understand why restrictions were needed at all, given Pärnu County has a low rate of infection (a little over 100 active cases in a county with over 86,000 inhabitants – ed.). The school itself has no cases among its 840 pupil body, the school says.

School director Margus Veri said: "It is quite thought-provoking that, if kindergartens and childcare centers are open, why should 1st to 4th grade students be at home. Filling up these days via distance learning is quite challenging. Our biggest difficulty now is how we would use the students' time, since we can't imagine that parents will all stay home too and start dealing with their children. This is our challenge: How to organize their agenda so that they are healthy."

A board trustee at the Hillar Hanssoo school, Barbi Valdmann, said much the same thing

"I think it would be more sensible to continue on at school until the planned school holidays (around a week-and-a-half later than the new date of December 14, as announced by the government Wednesday – ed.), because distance learning and school closure bring different problems.

"Beginning with the fact that students who need more support do not in fact get it, though to directing teachers, and ending with daily, hot food, which cannot be offered to children in every family," she went on.

Some schools have been providing food packs to schoolchildren even when they are on remote learning.

Kersti Kivisoon added that: "In Järva County, we are in approximate the same situation as we were in September. We have very few infected people (24 out of around 30,000 people - ed.) For us this all represents rather negative news. It is required as a preventive measure, but we could perhaps have continued a little more as before."

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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