The Education Ministry (MEP) announced Monday that public schools across Costa Rica will close from May 24 until July 12.
The suspension — which will pause in-person and virtual lessons — is due to the nationwide increase in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, which have saturated Costa Rica’s public-health system.
Corresponding with the upcoming school closures, the 2021 public school year will be extended until January 21, 2022, continuing after the end-of-year vacations from December 23 until January 3.
The 2022 school year will begin February 17.
“A reorganization of the school calendar of these dimensions has not happened in years, but neither had we had a pandemic that warranted it,” said Guiselle Cruz, Education Minister.
The pause — which includes the mid-year vacation scheduled for June 28-July 9 — will be used to help Costa Rica vaccinate teachers, Cruz said. The MEP is ordering a full closure instead of a switch to virtual lessons because more than 400,000 student wouldn’t have appropriate internet connectivity on short notice.
MEP will continue providing meals to low-income students who rely on education centers for their food, the organization said.
Private educational centers, “can make their own decisions” about whether or not to close, Cruz said, and will meet later Monday to identify next steps. Many private schools follow the U.S. academic year, which doesn’t correspond with Costa Rica’s.
Cruz also suggested the Health Ministry this week will announce additional measures to limit mobility in Costa Rica.
As of May 14, Costa Rica reported 1,339 people hospitalized with Covid-19, including 489 in the ICU. Costa Rica twice set new daily records for deaths last week.