Austrian Education Minister Heinz Fassmann on Friday presented a roadmap for reopening schools in the country: first to go back to school will be pupils in their final year, followed by younger students and then the older ones, with classes divided into two groups to reduce population density.
From May 4, schools will open to graduating classes, including those of vocational middle schools (BMS). From May 15, all pupils in the six to 14 age group will return to school, followed by the remaining pupils from June 3 (after Pentecost, a Christian holiday celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday), Fassmann said at a press conference here on Friday.
Classes will be divided into two groups of around 11 pupils each and taught alternately, according to the minister. “Group A” will go to school from Monday to Wednesday, “Group B” on Thursday and Friday. The next week it will be the other way round, so that everyone has the same lesson time.
The minister explained that not all students should return to school at the same time in order to prevent a further spread of the coronavirus. The graduating classes will be the first in line so that they can obtain a degree and start their professional lives.
The reason that the younger students will resume classes next is that the consolidation of basic skills is extremely important. In addition, “distance learning” is not as successful with them as with older students, Fassmann said.
The minister emphasized that the requirements will include wearing face masks outside the classrooms and washing or disinfecting hands at school.
The initial wave of COVID-19 infections appears to have passed its peak in 20 European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) countries, including Austria, according to a report published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Thursday.
Accordingly, it is important to define a sound approach to adjusting the restrictive measures and phasing out “stay-at-home” policies, the report said.
The ECDC, however, warned that lifting these measures too quickly may cause a sudden resurgence of community transmission.
Austria had registered 14,987 coronavirus infections with 530 deaths as of Friday morning. Of those infected, 651 are hospitalized and 156 are in intensive care, according to the Health Ministry.