The central government and the regions and autonomous cities want Spanish students to return to face-to-face school on Monday 10 January, after the Christmas holidays, despite the complicated epidemiological situation caused by the Omicron variant of the coronvirus.
This was agreed on Tuesday at the extraordinary meeting of the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System (CISNS, in its acronym in Spanish) together with the Education Sector Conference and the General Conference on University Policy.
The decision was later explained in a press conference by the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias; the Minister of Education and Professional Training, Pilar Alegría; and the Minister of Universities, Joan Subirats.
All of them emphasized that, in times of pandemic, the presence of students in the classroom "has been a success at all educational levels." Both the ministries and the regional authorities involved have valued that the classrooms have been safe places throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, where control measures have been optimally maintained, the government said in a statement.
"That we have maintained presence in all educational stages is a success for the country", highlighted the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias. She also explained that Tuesday's meeting fulfilled the mandate of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to "guarantee presence in classrooms so that our children and young people can fully develop."
"The best option"
Minister of Education Pilar Alegría stressed the importance of face-to-face teaching, despite all the concerns: "It is the best option for schoolchildren, for families and for the entire educational community." She said that closing schools" implies a huge loss in learning and puts the psychological well-being and emotional health of children at risk."
The Ministry of Health recalled that the number of infections in the classrooms in the non-university educational system has been low throughout the school year, with a number of classrooms in quarantine below 0.5%.
With the spread of the Omicron variant, a maximum peak was reached on 22 December (the day the school holidays began), with 1.3% of classrooms in quarantine, which means 5,433 classrooms out of a total of more than 417,000. Also, only 12 schools were closed due to outbreaks, 0.04% of all schools in the country.