Argentine schools take further steps toward normality

Buenos Aires, Feb 21 (EFE).- The new school year kicked off on Monday in Argentina’s capital and the western province of Mendoza with fully in-person instruction and new, less-restrictive health protocols.

“We’re returning to a way of working that’s very similar to what we had before the pandemic,” Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta said in the inauguration ceremony for a school in the capital’s Nueva Pompeya neighborhood.

The so-called “pase sanitario” (health pass), which contains information about a person’s vaccine status and other health information, will not be required this year at any schools in Argentina’s capital.

And the “sistema de burbujas” (bubble system) that had been in operation at Buenos Aires schools through December also has been scrapped, meaning students from different classrooms now can interact at recess and other moments during the day.

Face masks will be mandatory inside the classroom for students in fourth grade and higher, but they will not have to wear them outdoors.

More than 390,000 students at the pre-school and elementary school levels began their academic year on Monday in Buenos Aires, while students at the secondary level will kick off their studies on March 2.

“Every day counts … (after) these two very difficult years,” Rodriguez Larreta said.

Like in much of the rest of the world, schools were closed and distance learning environments become the norm during the first two years of the pandemic in Argentina.

But Buenos Aires’s mayor, a member of the opposition, center-right Republican Proposal party and a strong proponent of in-person schooling during the health crisis, said remote instruction “is not the same.”

“That’s why we put forth so much effort last year when (the leftist-led national government) wanted to close the schools” in response to a new coronavirus surge, he said, referring to a successful legal challenge he brought last year before the Supreme Court against an emergency decree suspending face-to-face classes.

To recover lost time, public-school students in sixth and seventh grades will have extended school hours, while students in the fifth year of secondary school will gradually start internships at different workplaces.

Extra classes also will be offered on Saturdays to ensure that students are covering the curriculum.

Elsewhere, students in Mendoza province on Monday began a 194-day academic year that will be fully in-person; in keeping with the move, that province’s government urged parents to immunize their children against Covid-19.

Following national health guidelines, that province requires teachers and students in first grade and higher to wear a face mask and maintain proper hygiene and as much social distancing as possible and recommends that children be fully vaccinated.

Confirmation of positive cases will not necessarily trigger immediate classroom closures. EFE


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