Schools are likely to again follow strict COVID-19 measures when students return to their desks in September, Times of Malta is informed, with bubbles and mask-wearing to be mandatory for the second year running.

The major change in the sector is expected to impact those students in post-secondary education, who were forced to follow lessons online throughout the last scholastic year. Because the majority of these students are now vaccinated, it is expected that they will be allowed back to lecture halls once the new year starts.

But those in primary and secondary schools are unlikely to see much change in their day-to-day systems, with children and educators still having to wear face masks throughout the day and stick to the bubble concept to avoid unnecessary contact.

Sources in the sector said that although those aged between 12 and 15 are being offered the coronavirus jab, and a good portion of them are already fully vaccinated, the younger students are not inoculated.

This means they are still at risk of spreading the virus, including to older siblings.

Marco Bonnici, Malta Union of Teachers head, said the government will be meeting educators in early September.

Although the union is aware that the COVID-19 situation can change overnight, he warned that if the authorities decided to introduce major changes following the meeting, there could be an issue with implementing them in time.

Meeting around two weeks before students return to school meant educators would have just a few days to figure out what needed to be done.

Bonnici again urged the health authorities to ensure that, if any changes are to be introduced, educators are given enough time to plan and implement them.

Last year, the government was forced to delay the start of the new scholastic year by a week, staggering students’ return to their classes over a period of seven days as part of efforts to ensure the COVID-19 measures were implemented and followed.

Schools had been abruptly shut for the entire year in March 2020 when the first cases of the novel coronavirus were detected by the health authorities on the island.

Schooling once again moved online a year later, this March, for a few weeks when record numbers of new cases of infection were registered.

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