ROME – The new school year starts, amid doubts and worries

Yesterday marked the first day of the new school year in Italy as teachers returned to school to attend meetings in preparation of when students come back to school on 14 September.

Italy’s Scientific Committee issued its latest recommendations, stating that the use of facemasks is not mandatory if the distance of one metre between individuals is respected. This means that students from the elementary school and older will therefore be able to take off their masks while seated at their desk.

This recommendation is strictly correlated to the local epidemiological situation and could thus become stricter in case the situation worsens.

Antonello Giannelli, president of the National Association of School Principals, addressed the speculations that emerged recently that teachers will not want to return to school, noting that “it is normal to be worried, but I don’t expect to see lots of medical certificates.”

Giannelli was also satisfied with the Scientific Committee’s latest recommendations, particularly as they “adapt to the age of students”. The fact that the recommendations “mandate the use of facemasks according to the health situation of the specific regions,” was also something that Gianelli approved.

Students, however, expressed their discomfort at being forced to wear facemasks at school, with some stating that “it will be a nightmare” when the school year officially starts. While some are worried about a new lockdown, others preferred to continue distance learning as it made them feel “safer”.

Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia stated that “if some regions feel the need to postpone the start of the school year, maybe after the elections, they are free to do so as it has always been the case.”

“The government said 14 September would be the first day of the new school year, but regions will be able to decide when to restart in all autonomy,” said Boccia.

Education Minister Lucia Azzolina addressed teachers and school personnel in an open letter, thanking them for all the work done during the COVID-19 crisis. “We had to deal with an unexpected and painful experience for us who live in contact with the students: suspending in-person learning.” said the minister, adding that “distance learning kept the link between us and our students alive.” (Alessandro Follis | EURACTIV.it)

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