Buenos Aires eyes return to pre-pandemic normality at schools, universities

Buenos Aires, Jul 19 (EFE).- The mayor of Argentina’s capital, a strong proponent of in-person instruction during the Covid-19 pandemic, unveiled a plan on Monday for a return to normality at Buenos Aires’ schools and universities.

Horacio Rodriguez Larreta made that announcement at a time when Argentina has just gone through a second coronavirus wave and there has only been partial in-person schooling.

“When the health situation got complicated in April, we staunchly defended face-to-face instruction,” the right-wing mayor said.

“And it’s been shown there was no greater increase in infections in schools than in the rest of the city. We can have the kids in the classroom” in a responsible manner, he added.

A prominent critic of President Alberto Fernandez’s administration, Rodriguez Larreta’s struggle for in-person schooling has turned into a political battle in that South American country.

In May, his government won a key victory when the Supreme Court ruled that a presidential decree to close Buenos Aires schools in response to a second wave of coronavirus cases constituted a violation of the city’s legally enshrined autonomy.

Schools had been closed for most of 2020 across Argentina, while in the first half of 2021 school days were shortened and students attended classes on alternate days in Buenos Aires.

Pre-school and elementary school students then continued to receive in-person instruction during the second coronavirus wave, but high-school students migrated to a combined in-person and virtual approach and post-secondary and university students have been studying via distance-learning exclusively.

But for the second semester of 2021, the mayor has announced “a plan for the kids to be in school for more hours” and for all educational levels to return to a pre-pandemic rhythm of in-person instruction following the conclusion of a two-week winter vacation period, which began on Monday.

Under the plan, grades will not be divided up into different groups for reasons of social distancing, he said, adding that in-person attendance will be mandatory unless a student – or someone he or she lives with – is at particular risk of complications from the coronavirus.

The plan for the resumption of normal in-person instruction is to begin at the secondary level between Aug. 4-9, since that level was most affected by the presidential decree in April ordering the closure of schools and has less time to make up any potential lost ground.

If possible, students at the elementary school and non-university tertiary levels and those attending professional training centers and school for adults will return to a normal, pre-pandemic routine on Aug. 17. Children at the pre-school level are tentatively scheduled to do so on Aug. 23.

In total, more than 700,000 students will be returning to the educational rules that existed prior to the pandemic.

With respect to universities, which have been in distance-learning mode for the past three four-month periods, students will have the option of gradually returning to in-person classes on Aug. 17.

Some 500,000 students are enrolled in different educational institutions in Buenos Aires. EFE


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