A pupil wears a face mask in class. / AGENCY

Spain's new school year will start with mandatory masks and few changes

The Ministry of Education and the regions hope that they will be able to ease coronavirus control measures as the vaccination of students progresses

ÁLVARO SOTO

Mandatory masks, social distancing of 1.2 metres between students and ventilation in the classrooms. The 2021/2022 school year in Spain will begin with few changes to the Covid-19 measures compared to the previous one.

The Ministry of Education and the regions have agreed this Wednesday (25 August), during an extraordinary meeting of the education committee, on the health restrictions that will be in place in schools for the start of the next academic year.

The back-to-school guide continues to be the document approved on 29 June (drafted before the explosion of cases caused by the Delta variant), which establishes the mandatory wearing of masks in those over six years of age, the maintenance of 'bubble' groups, a distance in class of at least 1.2 metres between students and cross ventilation in classrooms.

After the meeting, the Minister of Education, Pilar Alegría, called for «prudence« from everyone.

«This year is not going to be like the last, but we cannot lower our guard,» said Alegría, who reminded that the priority is «maximum attendance at all stages and in a safe environment.»

The Education department and the regions have pinned their hopes on the extension of vaccinations to the age group between 12 and 19 to be able to relax the going back to school measures throughout the start of the year.

«If the situation improves, we will be able to relax restrictions, but that will be determined by the health authorities,» said Alegría, before declaring that, currently, 16.4 per cent of adolescents have the complete vaccination schedule and 61.7 per cent have received at least one dose.

The department has demanded that the regions dedicate a good part of the 13.5 billion euros they will receive from central government between now and the end of the year (70 per cent immediately and the other 30 per cent in November) must be spent on hiring more teachers to reduce the number of students per year class.

«We must continue the same as last year,» Alegría insisted, given the reluctance of some regions, who prefer to allocate these funds to other purposes than education.