Young pupils gather at the courtyard of their Vikåsen school in Trondheim, Norway, after the school reopened on April 27th, 2020. Photo: AFPIt’s been 21 weeks since Covid-19 caused a shutdown of the Norwegian borders and the country went into lockdown. After nine weeks of closure, schools began to reopen as a part of the country’s gradual reopening plan. Agnes Erickson outlines how schools and authorities are tackling the challenge.
Classes resumed with heavy safety measures in place for the last part of the school year. With the summer holidays coming to an end, educational institutions are now facing the giant task of reopening safely again as numbers of infected Covid-19 cases are on the rise.
The National Model
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) created in May a national ‘traffic light’ model for all educational institutions in Norway. This is a guide for what infection control measures are to be followed under the pandemic.
A ‘green’ level means everyday school hours can run as normal, according to the guide to the system outlined by the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training.
If control measures are at ‘yellow’, the school must take measures to reduce physical contact and have more focus on hygiene. At the ‘red’ level, the school must minimize the number of students in a classroom and make individual decisions on the start and end of school days.
School staff are responsible for physical distance being held throughout the school day.
The traffic light model was set to ‘yellow’ on June 2nd, with schools and daycare planning for the autumn term on that basis.
The Biggest Challenges
With less than a week before the educational year is set to begin, administration and teachers are devising specific plans that work best for their community’s needs.
One of the biggest challenges for administration is organisational. There are plenty of times throughout the school day students naturally began to cluster. Free periods and the coming and going in classrooms are concerning times which need infection control plans in place. Communal areas are to be reevaluated for the safest form of use.
Both teachers and administration are responsible for finding alternative learning methods for students who suffer from chronic health conditions. Extra precaution must be taken. Some schools have made the choice to designate one teacher fully to online studies so these students can learn safely from home.
Will teachers be discussing Covid -19 in classrooms?
“Teachers will be talking about hygiene and Covid-19. There will be discussions about the pandemic and what needs the students have. It’s important to have a continued focus on transmissible diseases and at the same time, ensure students feel safe and are taking necessary precautions,” Aslaug Reitan, vice-principal at Nyplass Skole in Vigeland,
Teachers and staff face many changes, both small and large, regarding their daily work routines.
The communal coffee pot will now have a designated pourer in meetings or a bottle of hand sanitizer next to it. Planning days and staff meetings that take place throughout the year cannot be held in traditionally small faculty rooms.
For its first planning day, the Vigeland school has decided to separate staff into three groups, to be placed in three different rooms and interact with each other through video conference.
The biggest change from a normal school year
Vice-principal Aslaug said he believes physical distance would be the most noticeable change.
“The biggest difference from a normal school year is that both staff and students have to hold a physical distance from each other. One must think carefully about how to organise a school day, and how everyone involved can cooperate to avoid infection,” he said.https://4aad373eaf961625a3d6cba978a30146.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Cleaning personnel have been asked to have extra focus on all surface areas, while toilets and sinks will be cleaned multiple times throughout the school day.
Teachers will take extra initiative to ensure a clean learning environment and set allotted time for hand washing. Students will also have extra responsibility — they must to wipe down their desks or tables before coming and going.
The plan is to clean tablets, keyboards and learning materials every day, and toys that cannot be washed often will be removed.
What the parents think
Aslaug said that one of the biggest concerns he had noted from parents is that they are worried their children will be missing out both socially and educationally: parents are keen to know exactly what measures the school is taking to ensure safety and have also asked for more detail on what schools are doing to establish a safe learning environment.
While the Directorate of Education has placed responsibility on school leaders to enforce the new national guidelines, they have also emphasised the need for everyone to contribute to the good operation of schools during the Covid-19 outbreak.