SANTIAGO — The coronavirus pandemic changed the way millions of students learn. In March, the Ministry of Health suspended in-person classes and set up a reopening plan for schools. Since then, only 261 educational establishments in the country have reopened and returned to in-person classes.
On Oct. 30, the Undersecretary of Education, Jorge Poblete, along with the Ministry of Education’s advisor, Bárbara Manríquez, completed their initial evaluation of the reopening plan for schools. They say that only 261 schools have returned to in-person classes in Chile, and only 674 are in the process of reopening.
According to data through Oct. 29 from the Ministry of Education, of the schools that have reopened, 133 are located in the Metropolitan Region (RM) and the other 128 are distributed throughout the country; and, of those that have requested reopening, 381 are in the RM and the other 293 are elsewhere.
— Ministerio de Educación (@Mineduc) October 30, 2020
High School Seniors Want To Return
Poblete said that the highest number of requests to return to in-person classes has come from high school seniors. “We have more than 200,000 high school seniors. We know how important it is to them to see their classmates and say goodbye.”
According to the undersecretary, there are currently 115,937 seniors living in districts that are already in Phase III or IV of the government’s reopening plan. This means that they could be allowed to return to in-person classes if their schools ask for permission.
“We estimate that during the next few weeks, 17 percent of the senior students [in the country] will have returned to in-person classes. In the RM, that percentage will reach 22.”
School Reopening Plan
During the evaluation, undersecretary Poblete said that throughout the country, already 240 districts are in Phases III or IV. “This means that 8,657 educational establishments attended by 2.1 million students” could request reopening.
Here are the steps a school must follow to reopen:
1. The school must be located in a district in Phase IV or, in exceptional cases, in Phase III with a request from the school.
2. The school has to receive and incorporate the Ministry’s cleaning and health protocols.
3. The Ministry will deliver sanitary kits that include masks, alcohol gel, and thermometers.
4. Every school must define its operational and organizational measures and share them with the educational community.
5. The school must train teachers and staff in the applicable sanitary measures.
6. The plan must be presented to the governing Ministerial Regional Secretariat (Seremi).
Comparison To Other Countries
Manríquez also addressed the situation in other countries. According to Manríquez, 82 percent of the countries in the world have already reopened their schools. Of those analyzed, 115 have their schools fully open, 58 have them partially open, six are using “academic breaks,” and 31 still have all schools closed.
The Ministry’s advisor also said that “this week, UNESCO changed our country’s category. Chile went from being under the category of closed schools due to Covid-19, to partially open.”
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant