Parents condemn government plan to send teens back to school in May as “unthinkable”

Parents have condemned the government plan to get teens back to school by May 4 as “unthinkable”.

Says one of the country’s many federations of parents associations, considering the advice still coming from health authorities, even a ‘partial return’ of older pupils will put whole families at risk.

Teachers too are dubious.

Manuel Pereira president of ANDE, the national association of school directors, dubs the plan “very optimistic” as it implies much more than three final year groups simply returning to schools. It would involve all the logistics of services opening up (to ensure the pupils were fed/ offered transport/ cared for beyond the immediate educational context) – while a degree of social distancing would need to remain in place.

“Classes would have to be reduced in size which would require more teachers”, Pereira told Expresso – adding that he even “doubts that within a month the dissemination of the illness will allow for the reopening of schools”.

Today (Tuesday), the education ministry is locked in meetings with members of the school community “to discuss how the 3rd period will be at a time of containment of the spread of the virus”.

Prime minister António Costa intimated last week that most pupils will remain at home, distance-learning through the help even of ‘televised classes’ while the older pupils (10th/ 11th and 12th years) would be returning to school on May 4.

But he did leave the door open to ‘adjustments’ – and these seem highly likely.

For now, we’re told the government will be coming to a decision on Thursday (April 9).

The 3rd period is due to start next week, on April 14.

Schools have been closed since March 16.

In the wider sphere, Italy and Germany have approved the ‘passing of the year’ for all pupils, irrespective of scholastic levels, while in France and the UK, end of year exams have been suspended.

The difficulty for the government is that it has to come up with official guidance now, when the way the virus develops through April will be pivotal.

Schools themselves have their own ideas on the possible ‘future’ of this year’s intake – particularly those in the final years pre-university/ college or other plans for further education.

Said Manuel Pereira, they are open to classes going through June and July and final exams coming in September.

But for the rest of the school community – the years one through to nine – the 3rd period will be ‘more of the same’: classes carried out ‘at home’ through ‘distance learning’ using the internet and a revival of ‘telescola’ via RTP and other TDT channels.

Telescola began in the 60s in Portugal, to cater for children in the interior who, at the time, couldn’t get to a local school.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com