While the conditions for skiing in Estonia are among the best in the last few years, physical education teachers are struggling with lessons as a regulation approved 15 years ago forbids classes to go outside in the windy cold weather.
As wind chill is taken into account when holding classes outdoors, there have been few days this year where PE classes have been able to go outside for skiing. This has led PE teachers to call for a change in the law for cold weather classes, forbidding classes to be held outdoors when it is colder than -10 C.
"If we follow it to a T, we cannot go outside during the Estonian winter at all, because temperatures are pointed out as perceptible cold. The limit for grades 1-6 is -10 C, which means I do not even know when we could legally go outside during our winters," said Raina Luhakooder, a PE teacher at Tallinn Kristiine High School.
While it is cold in Tallinn, things get even chillier when headed outside of the capital city. In Põlva County for example, temperatures are lower and snow is even thicker, but students in primary education classes have been spending time outside even with temperatures such as -12 C on some days and according to PE teacher Toomas Kivend, nothing special has happened.
"For lower secondary (grades 5-9 - ed) students, once it goes to -15 C, we have moved indoors as they are a little more sensitive than smaller children," Kivend said.
The teacher said teenagers do not want to be in the cold. "If they want to wear ripped jeans during physical education classes, then they will certainly get cold," the teacher noted.
School directors who have fallen under an avalanche of parent pressure however call for rules to be followed, but according to Kristiine High School's Raina Luhakooder, the issue is not in the weather, but rather in the students' clothing.
"Girls are wearing leggings, a light jacket, thin gloves, some do not even have a hat on and you can see their bare legs from under their shoes and pants. I think it is too cold to be dressed that way," Luhakooder said, adding that she is convinced that if students were to layer up, they would not get cold.
According to Kivend, students dressed appropriately for the conditions come from parents who are also active. "But others have snow pants and jeans underneath. I have not seen many sports shirts or long-sleeved sweaters. Warm wool socks are also seemingly for the 70-year olds now," he noted, adding that children could use a couple cold winters to learn to dress for the conditions.
Teachers do not consider the minimum outdoors temperature levels as reasonable, but do note that the law could be amended by making the limit colder by five degrees. As the teachers' proposal just reached the Ministry of Social Affairs, the ministry did not have a comment yet.
Luhakooder, the head of the Estonian Physical Education Association and author of the letter to the social ministry, does not believe teachers would force students outside into the cold wind.
"Teachers are smart enough, they can make those decisions of when to go outside. It is more that parents are saying where the limit is and their children do not want to, because they do not want to take extra clothes to school on that day," Kivend said.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste