More students go back to school for face-to-face education

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More students are returning to schools in the second phase of the government’s plan for resuming face-to-face education across Turkey.

Schools were closed on March 16, days after the country confirmed its first coronavirus case.

The 2019-2020 school year was officially declared as over in June.

It was initially announced that schools would reopen on Aug. 31. However, a resurgence in infections postponed the reopening to September.

In-class lessons for kindergarten students and first graders began on Sept. 21 on a reduced scale.

On Oct. 12, millions of students from the second through fourth grades, eighth and twelfth graders, pupils in all grades in village schools, and students with special needs returned to their classrooms.

Students in those grades will attend face-to-face classes two days a week and they are split into groups to ensure social distancing.

If any parents are concerned about the safety of their children, attendance in the school will not be mandatory, but those students who do not go to the schools are required to follow online classes through national broadcaster TRT’s Education Information Network (EBA).

The Education Ministry will distribute some 500,000 tablets to help students to follow online courses.

Temperatures of students will be measured on entering the school premises while parents will not be allowed in the schoolyards.

“We will proceed by complying with all health rules. We will move ahead by taking the criteria set up by the Health Ministry’s Science Board into account,” Education Minister Ziya Selçuk said in the Central Anatolian province of Çankırı where he attended the ceremony for the resumption of face-to-face lessons.

He was happy to observe that students at the school that he had visited were strictly following health, social distancing, face masks, and other necessary rules, the minister added.

In Istanbul, the country’s largest city by population, traffic congestion was visibly higher as school buses hit the roads on the first day of face-to-face education.

Police units in the city carried out inspections on school buses to check if drivers are adhering to the anti-virus measures and whether students are wearing face masks.

“We are both excited and worried. But life must go on with face masks and social distancing. I wish all the best for students and teachers,” said Seniha Şen, a parent in Istanbul.

Neslihan Büyükkaya, another parent, also expressed concern. “I have conflicting feelings. Going to school is a big risk to my son, but at the same time, I want him to attend classes. I do have fears, however, there is not much to do about it. I have taken all precautions for him. He is wearing a face mask and has disinfectant with him.”

Risks assessments will be made for schools and classrooms, said Professor Serap Şimşek Yavuz from the Health Ministry’s Science Board.

“Let’s say if there is one COVID-19 case in a classroom, we can talk about low and medium-level risks and screening will be carried out accordingly. However, if there is more than one case, then the risk is higher, and lessons will be suspended, and the situation will be reconsidered,” she said.

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