Schools in Macedonia are reopening on September 1 for in-person learning, with the exception of Tetovo high schools where students will attend online classes in the next two weeks at the request of their mayor due to the spike in Covid-19 cases there. In addition, fourth-graders around the country are starting the 2021-22 school year with no textbooks and an all-digital curriculum, which the Ministry of Education and Science has introduced as the first step in its ambitious 5- or 6-year plan of reforming elementary education.
According to Health Minister Venko Filipche, schools would follow the public health protection protocols for Covid-19 the Ministry of Education and the Infectious Diseases Commission had developed.
Around 65 percent of school employees were vaccinated so far, he added.
Education Minister Mila Carovska said the governmental decision to reopen schools in the 2021-22 school year for in-person learning was backed by UNICEF and OECD.
She added that schools reopened fully in developed countries, as well.
The state, however, is not testing students for Covid-19 ahead of Sept. 1 or during the new school year, the way some countries have introduced free PCR tests for children.
There has also been no mention of investments in air filtration for elementary schools, such as HEPA filtration, which has been proven to remove microscopic airborne particles, including respiratory viruses, from air in spaces like classrooms.
If the epidemiological situation deteriorates, the Ministry of Education has considered two other instruction models.
One is for students to attend either online or in-person classes — as was the case in the 2020-21 school year — and the other is for schools to introduce hybrid learning.
In the latter scenario, students would be in classrooms only part of the time, with groups alternating weekly between online and in-person instruction.
Whether schools close or introduce a mix of online and in-person learning depends on the Infectious Diseases Commission, which is monitoring the surge of new Covid-19 cases.
For four-graders with no access to computers, the Ministry of Education has procured 10,000 tablets so students can use the new digital learning materials.