High-risk and vulnerable students may have to attend school remotely this scholastic year, according to a set of government proposals to ensure schools re-open next month. 

Times of Malta is informed that the education authorities have drafted plans for the re-opening of schools that were last week handed over to Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci. 

The proposals are geared towards having classes reopen on September 28 with “as many students as possible attending regular daily school”, a source privy to the document said.

To do this, the education department is proposing that students with health problems, or with health concerns in their immediate family, follow the scholastic year from home with dedicated online learning courses. 

“We want schools to reopen full force in September. But to do this, we may require a certain portion of students, who are vulnerable or, say, have a vulnerable parent, to stay home and follow classes online,” a government official said.

The government is now waiting for Gauci and her team to identify which sort of students should be required to stay home. Feedback is expected this week. 

We will leave the health considerations to the health experts

Schools were closed back in March when the coronavirus pandemic first hit Malta’s shores. Since then, the government has said it is intending to resume classes at the end of the summer holidays. 

Education department sources said their plans to reopen schools had followed discussions with counterparts in other EU member states as well as with the European Commission.  “Of course, we are educators, so we will leave the health considerations to the health experts,” one source said.

Sources said the proposals put to Gauci include suggestions on the minimum distance between students in class, hall monitors, regular sanitisation and other protocols such as what measures should be in place when students arechanging classrooms between lessons.  

However, should authorities be forced to delay the start of the scholastic year due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the authorities have come out with guidelines on how to meet syllabus requirements. 

The first scenario, described by sources as the ‘best case’, will see schools opening as usual and all children attending – aside from those identified as vulnerable. If this happens, teachers have been instructed to carry on their duties as normal.   The second scenario details what should happen if schools open but with alternating groups of children attending to limit the spread of the virus. This was described as far less desirable by government contacts who say parents needed children in school to get on with work.  

The final draft scenario, ‘the worst case’, is what teachers are to do if schools remain shut and all teaching is done online.

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