More than 10,000 students in San Juan Province became the first in Argentina to return to schools this week, providing a rare bright spot in the gloom of the coronavirus pandemic.
Education Minister Nicolás Trotta said the re-start of classes had been a “positive experience” and revealed that Formosa and Catamarca were on the verge of authorising face-to-face classrooms.
“The provinces of Formosa and Catamarca are on the horizon of the beginning classes in the coming days in districts that have a possible epidemiological situation,” he said.
In total, children and teenagers from 14 regions in San Juan Province returned to schools, with education for them switching to a “bimodal” system, officials said, with time with teachers complementing and enhancing homework and remote lessons online.
Students are taught in small groups with re-organised classrooms operating in a “bubble” system, with empty chairs beween children, a sanitary kit for each student and everyone wearing face masks.
Children and teenagers in the region are the first students in the country to return to face-to-face teaching since March 20, when President Alberto Fernández ordered a mandatory lockdown to tackle the spread of the Covid-19 in Argentina.
Students in the last years of primary and secondary school returned to their desks, in groups of no more than 15 students.
Marcos Leonel Canto, one of 23 children who attended sixth grade classes at the rural Escuela 12 de Agosto, in the town of Pocito, said he was glad to be back.
“It was good to see my classmates back. I missed them,” he told reporters. “The face mask doesn’t bother me.”
Until now, Marcos and his classmates have studied with guides that teachers and professors sent by WhatsApp, since there is little Internet connectivity in the area.
“Having class with the students present is very necessary. In complying with the security measures, they are now beginning an apprenticeship that has to become a habit,” said the school’s director, Mary Liliana Díaz.