More than 100 schools continuing with distance learning

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Students at Rocca al Mare School in Tallinn.

Regardless of the government's decision to allow schools back to contact classes from Monday (January 25) there are some 100 schools across Estonia still remaining on distance learning.

According to Juta Varjas, the Health Board's chief specialist in the surveillance and epidemic departments, schools often turn to the Health Board for advice on how to organize studies safely. Varjas noted that if there is an infected person in the school, finding out their recent contacts should be priority.

"There are a little more than a 100 of those schools, where someone has been diagnosed with COVID and around 50 childcare facilities. And there have recently been schools detected with group infections in all regions. We consider a group infection one where more than five people have fallen ill," Varjas said.

Schools must coordinate going on distance learning with the Health Board. Varjas said that schools try not to bother their study organization as much as possible.

She added that distance learning is not recommended for all schools. "Based on their first scare, schools often ask if they should go on distance learning. Then they look at the case in detail. One example is that if the infected member of the school family has not been to the school, there is no need for distance learning," Varjas explained.

Close to half of the hundred schools utilising distance learning are in the northern region of Estonia. Still, there are schools in smaller rural areas that have had to leave some students at home. Varstu School, at 64-student school in Võru County, was forced to go on distance learning when one of their students was infected with the coronavirus. School director Aive Adler said only first and second grade students are allowed in the school for now.

"While mapping the circe of close contacts, it became clear that 15 teachers had all been connected to teaching the boy and the teachers were then obligated to stay in self-isolation," Adler noted.

According to Juta Vajras, each case is still being treated separately, but the coronavirus' spread among students is in an upward trend. Varjas did not rule out that there could be reason to establish complete distance learning in some regions, as is done in the city of Narva now, where only 9th and 12th grade students are allowed in the school, along with 1-4 grade students.

Narva city government's culture department chairwoman Viktoria Lutus said: "When analyzing the situation, we decided that these restrictions must be extended by at least one more week. We must decide how to move forward with school directors and the Health Board this week."

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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