Czech educators call for distance learning in upper grades, say prevention of COVID spread not possible

Leaders of the elementary and grammar schools principals' associations are taking the Czech government to task on the practicalities of returning in September


Written by ČTK Published on 05.08.2020 10:00:09 (updated on 05.08.2020) Reading time: 3 minutes

Prague, August 4 (CTK) — Preventing the spread of the coronavirus at schools via infected students will be a problem come September, Michal Cerny and Renata Schejbalova of the elementary and grammar schools principals’ associations told CTK Wednesday. 

They said the timetables for lessons mean that students from various classes will inevitably meet one another and that any changes to a class’s schedule could impact the operation of the entire school.

Schejbalova said it is also unrealistic for the entire class of a student who has caught COVID-19 to have its schedule changed and its lessons and breaks postponed and for its students not to meet students from other classes.

Her comments were in response to Prague chief public sanitary officer Zdenka Jagrova’s proposed solution to such a scenario.

“Students do not spend all of their time in a single classroom with the same classmates,” Schejbalova told journalists Wednesday.

“For example, in foreign language lessons they are divided into groups according to their proficiency level, while other kinds of special lessons bring students from additional classes together,” she added.

A postponement of one class’s schedule would also pose a problem for teachers who are supposed to teach one lesson after another in different classes.

The system as outlined by Jagrova might only be applicable to elementary school students in the 1st-5th grades, who spend the majority of their lessons together and have fewer teachers, Schejbalova said.

In the case of secondary schools, however, distance schooling of the entire class would be more realistic, she said.

Cerny pointed out that schoolchildren are often in contact with each other also outside the school.


“I don’t believe that if a student got infected, no one else would catch it,” he said.

He said the mingling of students from different classes might be reduced, but it would influence the schools’ operation.

“A school will lose something without the mingling of groups,” he said, adding that students from different classes mainly meet at extracurricular courses.

Both Cerny and Schejbalova said that now, halfway through the summer holidays, schools are not yet preparing for the new school year. They are waiting for the Education Ministry’s manual with guidelines about anti-coronavirus protection.

The ministry is preparing the manual in cooperation with epidemiologists and plans to release it after August 17.

Cerny and Schejbalova called on the ministry to speed up the drafting of a planned bill on distant schooling. The bill is yet to be submitted to the cabinet for approval and the Chamber of Deputies might take a vote on it in the autumn, Education Minister Robert Plaga (ANO) said recently.

Until the bill takes effect as a law, participation in distance lessons will not be binding for kids and schools will not be bound to adapt to the distance schooling system to families’ conditions, Cerny pointed out.

In the previous school year, schools were closed over the coronavirus epidemic from March 11 and the compulsory school attendance was not reintroduced until the end of the school year on June 30.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that a long-lasting closure of schools could cause a generational catastrophe, which is why children’s safe return to schools must be the top priority.

In mid-July, schools in about 160 countries remained closed over the epidemic, which has affected more than one billion students, he said.

Last month, the Czech Ministry of Education announced that schools would fully reopen from September 1.

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