Rising COVID-19 rates force several Pärnu County schools to remote learning ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

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The Sütevaka High School of Humanities in Pärnu. Source: Google Maps

Several schools in Pärnu County have made the switch to remote learning following coronavirus outbreaks among both pupils and staff. The region's Health Board (Terviseamet) director said that the return to school could, with hindsight, have been put back a week, amid rising COVID-19 rates in the county.

Sütevaka High School of Humanities in Pärnu city switched to distance learning from Monday, while Sauga School, just outside the town, is to do the same from Tuesday. These join two schools who had already made the move to remote learning last week, with a kindergarten and primary school in Pärnu County also going to distance learning this week.

Pärnu Sütevaka High School of Humanities decided to go to remote learning after a teacher tested COVID-19 positive. The teacher had taught several different grades last week, and had come into contact with colleagues, BNS reports.

Both teachers and students picking up virus

The schools' principal, Andres Laanemets, said the decision was made following talks involving the Health Board (Terviseamet) over the weekend. Distance learning will last at least a week, he said.

Laanemets said: "The infected teacher came into contact with the students of three grades, and with some twenty colleagues in the staff common room. We are treating all of these as potential close contacts, and therefore decided to continue in distance learning for seven working days."

Head of the Health Board's western district, Kadri Juhkam, said that the return to school after the Christmas and New Year's break could have been postponed by at least a week (i.e. to this week – ed.).

Holiday period saw increase in rates

Her rationale was that viral spread gained momentum through close family contacts over the holiday period; infections in Pärnu County have risen since the holidays, and additional restrictions may consequently be in the offing, Juhkam said.

In the case of the Sauga School, it was a student who tested positive for the virus last week; while the school goes to distance learning from today, Tuesday, three more pupils and one teacher have contracted the virus since the original case was reported (it is not reported whether the later infections were a result of contact with the first – ed.).

Sauga's principal said that while experience since the spring wave has made teachers more adept at giving classes on line, it is still not quite a substitute for face-to-face learning.

Sütevaka school principal: Remote learning poor substitute for in-class version

Andres Laanemets, principle at the Sütevaka school, concurred: "Distance learning is, after all, an abnormal way of learning and requires self-discipline," he said, adding that some exceptions for seniors and small groups have been made for in-house classes.

The Tahkuranna Kindergarten and Primary School also announced the transition to distance learning on Monday, while the Pärnu Tammsaare and Koonga schools announced that they would be switching to distance learning for two weeks, from last week.

Pärnu County had been reporting single-figures of new COVID-19 cases most days until late November/early December, when the rate saw a sharp increase. The Health Board reports double figures of new cases most days now (yellow line in graph below).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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