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Costa Rica prepares return for in-person school

Costa Rica’s public schools will return to the classroom on February 8 for the first time since the country declared a State of Emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some private schools in Costa Rica have already begun in-person lessons.

The Minister of Public Education, Guiselle Cruz, has argued in previous weeks that the return to classrooms is “unpostponeable.”

This reflects the difficulties Costa Rica experienced when trying to transition to online; in August 2020, five months after the country suspended in-person lessons, more than 475,000 students still hadn’t activated their online accounts.

Here’s what you need to know as the Costa Rican school year begins:

Classes will have hybrid model

Each education center can choose the teaching method that best fits its resources. Most will operate a hybrid model in which students go to in-person classes for up to four days each week. Students without reliable internet access should be prioritized for in-person learning.

Students ages 6 and up must wear masks at all times, including when they’re on the bus or walking to school. Desks should be spaced 1.8 meters apart to help with physical distancing. Schools will stagger start and end times for different grades to minimize crowding.

Recess will also be staggered, and students should avoid contact sports during that free time.

No obligation to send kids to in-person class

The Education Ministry (MEP) says parents or guardians should decide if they’re comfortable sending their children to in-person class. If they opt for online-only, MEP “will respect the decision.”

Students will not be penalized if they don’t have the standard school uniform or supplies.

MEP says it will continue distributing food packages to students who rely on the institution for their dietary needs.

Any case of Covid-19 confirmed in a student or in that student’s social bubble must be reported to his school.

Discontent from teachers

The Union of Costa Rican Education Workers (SEC) has joined many from the education sector in expressing discontent with the return to in-person classes.

“Since December, we have insisted on the vaccine for our nation’s teachers, because we understand that the lives of our colleagues in education cannot be put at risk,” the union said in a statement.

Teachers are in the fourth group for vaccine priority. They will receive doses after medical staff, the elderly, and younger adults with risk factors.

The SEC argues that older teachers and those with underlying health conditions should receive the vaccine before they’re obligated to return in-person.

Resources for parents

Parents and guardians should contact their child’s education center to confirm the school’s plans for lessons in 2021.

MEP has created a Spanish-language website answering frequently asked questions, detailing protocols and guidelines, and providing other supplemental material related to the return to in-person classes. Click here to visit the Education Ministry’s coronavirus page.

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