Absences from work in Spain increased sevenfold in December and teachers – despite the fact that they were prioritized in the administration of the third dose of the vaccine – are not immune to the pandemic. The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training recognizes that there will be an avalanche of casualties due to a rebound in infections that it trusts will abate at the end of the month. But are the centers ready? The majority of teachers’ feeling is that no, especially in the regions where the number of additional teachers has decreased the most this year – led by Madrid and Andalusia, who announced in August that they would have 7,679 and 5,300 fewer teachers than in 2020- 2021, respectively – and the number of students per classroom has returned to the pre-pandemic scenario without split-ups and with crowded classes. In other European countries, governments have promoted the detection of covid in teachers and students, through diagnostic tests, something that for the moment Spain has not yet announced, except in Catalonia for the contacts of those infected.
Classes are resumed this Monday after the Christmas break and in recent weeks a wide debate was opened between the Administrations and the educational community about what that return would be like. The Ministry of Education has requested that compliance with the protocols be extreme and Health has allowed that among children under 12 years only classes with more than four infections are quarantined. In social networks, teachers say they are alone in this adverse scenario. In France, on the other hand, students who are in close contact with an infected person have to undergo free tests and the chaos, according to the schools, has been great. In Berlin, meanwhile, rapid tests have been carried out on all students all week and they will undergo from now on alternate days, while the Italian Army will carry out massive tests in schools.
The teachers do not explain why the autonomies have left 3,000 million euros unspent from the central government’s covid fund (around 10%) to finance the expenses caused by the coronavirus. According to calculations by the Treasury, the first year the regions allocated an extra 1,448 million to education and 2,000 million the second. And how much is being invested in this third course, the first face-to-face for all stages? There is no data yet, but presumably less, given the cuts in part of the communities.
Esteban Álvarez, president of the Madrid institute directors’ association (Adimad), estimates that a medium-sized center, with about 90 teachers, will have to face three or four substitutions due to contagion on Wednesday. “It takes between four or five business days to process a cancellation. When the replacement wants to arrive, the quarantine is over [han bajado de 10 a siete días]”, He stresses with alarm. The thing is complicated, in addition, because some lists of interns are exhausted in Madrid and other regions: mathematics or electricity and computer science in FP. They even go to the State Public Employment Service (SEPE) to find suitable profiles. “As in Madrid there is so much job instability, the teachers have gone to the communities that have maintained the reinforcements this year,” says Álvarez. This is the case of the Basque Country, the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands, Catalonia or Navarra. Workers’ Commissions estimates that 20,000 supplementary teachers have been maintained and that up to 71,000 would be needed to have ratios of 20 students throughout the system.
Toni González Picornell, president of the association of directors of institute of Spain, proposes to return to a formula that is not new: that the withdrawal is processed with a sworn statement from the teacher without waiting for the ratification of the outpatient doctor. At their institute, Pare Vitoria de Alcoi (Alicante), they have received five machines to recycle the air, but they hardly use them: “Cross ventilation works much better.” In other centers they have not arrived and it is a repeated complaint. He acknowledges that he will be stricter in this round: “The human being tends to relax, we must re-insist on the protocol. At the slightest doubt of symptoms, cough, fever … home, teachers and students ”.
Before the debate last week, when Murcia and Madrid threatened to return to class at a distance after Christmas, Castilla y León made it clear that there the return would be face-to-face, because for something they had invested a strong game to have a reinforcement 1,300 teachers and maintain a distance of 1.5 meters, instead of the 1.2 meters allowed by the protocol agreed with Education. “In Madrid the instructions say that, if possible, the separation is 1.2 meters, but with 35 students in class it is impossible,” Álvarez continues.
These two realities, with PP governments, show two ways of facing the pandemic in Spanish classrooms in a very different way. “We are going to jump of kills without being informed. There should be a complementary strategy for the communities to do, for example, tests on teachers and students and there is absolutely nothing ”, complained this Saturday Vicente Mañes, president of the association of directors of public schools, who also criticizes that the school is not being seen as the means to learn, but for families to reconcile. Juan Villegas, professor at the Maestro Juan de Ávila institute in Ciudad Real, added: “We must quickly carry out PCR on students and teachers and immediate replacements of those who leave. Without measures like these, the decision to continue keeping schools and institutes open is effective from a social point of view, but not an educational one ”.
This Sunday, Catalonia opened the ban and announced that in the event of a contagion in a classroom, classmates will be able to take a free test at a pharmacy that is attached to the TAR program of the Generalitat the same day or the next day of infection.
More problems in elementary school
In primary school the situation is more worrying than in secondary school. The minors are never left alone in the classroom and cannot get together with others in a larger space because they are bubble groups, explains Mañes, director of the public school in Catarroja (Valencia). He has just opened the mail and has a dozen messages notifying him of cases among his 250 schoolchildren. Mañes recalls that if only entire classes with more than four infections are quarantined, teachers will have to split up to teach face-to-face classes and attend one or two hours on-line to the inmates, in addition to sending them homework so that they are not left behind. Even more complex for non-tutor teachers (Music, English or Physical Education) who teach several groups.
Mañes is especially concerned about kindergarten teachers. “I thought that in that case, that the children are not going to be vaccinated, they would leave the quarantines. They do not wear a mask or respect distances, they touch, hug, if one is infected many more will be ”. And that’s without counting on everyone’s mental exhaustion. “It is going to be a tough term in which the cold will be present and will make it more difficult for the students to concentrate, who must be motivated almost daily,” laments Miguel Muñoz, teacher at the El Llano de Monesterio school (Badajoz). This is the case of the Antaviana school institute in Barcelona, which reached the Christmas holidays with 11 of its 26 confined groups and a high absenteeism (of 600 students only 40 attended). Their head of primary school, Jordi Terrés, explains that what worries them the most are the asymptomatic and that with the aim of stopping the hit of positives as much as possible, they have sent a letter asking parents for caution in the event of any symptoms.
The public teachers also miss that there is a school nurse in each center to monitor the incidence of covid and compliance with the protocol, as there are more and more in concerted schools – which charge families that extra – and private. The Canary Islands and Madrid, which have 700, are the autonomous regions in which they are most established. In schools, the covid coordinator is usually the principal, who assumes the responsibility of controlling the protocols. “I don’t have time to manage anything. It is like being in two places at the same time and not doing any task well. Take the specialty of Music and the direction coordinating the management of the covid It’s a real madness ”, complains Olga Aguilar, from the Maestro José Varela school in Dos Hermanas (Seville).
Praise for the behavior of the little ones ―starting from the authorities themselves― continues and Ruth Molina, who teaches in a rural center in Loyozuela (Madrid), although with “fear” for their return, expresses a very shared idea: “We will have We have to be much more aware that the little ones are wearing the mask all the time, that when they have lunch they keep their distance, but we cannot ask for more, they are the winners of this pandemic. Our little ones deserve that we receive them with great enthusiasm and enthusiasm and we will do that because it is our job ”.
Regional measures to alleviate the avalanche of casualties
JA Aunion Eva Saiz
The coverage of teacher absences is anticipated as one of the great difficulties in this return to school in the middle of the sixth wave of the covid, which continues to break infection records every day; last Friday the Ministry of Health reported 242,440 infections. Although the autonomous communities will not have until this Monday, when the centers are reopened, the exact data on their scope, the fear is that the losses due to the pandemic could put the activity of some schools and institutes in serious difficulties. In Catalonia, for example, while waiting for these data, last Friday there were already 17% more appointments of substitutes, compared to the last day before restarting the course last January.
As in the rest of the communities, the Generalitat trusts that its replacement mechanisms will be agile enough to cushion the blow. In the Catalan case, the Government said on Friday that short-term absences (of less than five days) will begin to be covered when three simultaneous absences accumulate at the same center.
In Galicia, they hope to have the more than 200 vacancies that were already in the system covered on the same Monday. In the Basque Country, they even hope to have at least a part of the casualties produced during the holidays covered, since the computer application through which the community centers communicate their needs was opened preventively on the 5th, he assures a spokesman for the Basque Department of Education. Both Galicia and the Basque Country ensure that vacancies will be filled within 24 hours.
In general, either with telematic systems (Navarra), telephone reinforcements (Castilla-La Mancha announces a system of substitutions only by this route) and with several interim calls per week (Extremadura, Madrid, Andalusia, Valencian Community …), the autonomies hope to cushion the impact that the contagions of teachers may have. In the Balearic Islands, they have also launched “an express substitution system for teachers with covid in public centers,” explains a spokeswoman. It is a bag of 25 teachers who are ready to cover the dropouts urgently.
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