The storm Filomena has forced to delay the return to school this Monday in several communities. In Madrid they will not be resumed until Monday, January 18 (in the meantime they will be online), while in Castilla-La Mancha and Aragon they will, at the earliest, on Wednesday.
In the provinces of Ávila and Soria and other areas of Castilla y León, the closure will only be maintained, in principle, this Monday. And the measure has been extended, on a municipal scale, to municipalities in other communities, such as the Valencian Community (in 33 towns) and in Catalonia.
The covid , on the other hand, will not stop the reopening of educational centers. Neither the Government nor the autonomous communities consider that the measure is justified by the increase in infections, despite the fact that the drop in temperatures, which are expected to be very cold in the coming days, will complicate natural ventilation, which is produced by opening the windows of the classrooms.
The prevention protocols, the authorities point out, contained the virus much better than expected in the first quarter of the course, and the educational impact of the absence of face-to-face classes is very high, especially among students in the early stages and in the from disadvantaged socio-cultural environments. Most experts share this reading.
The teachers’ unions have expressed their concern about the increase in infections and the difficulty in airing schools, especially after the freezing temperatures that the storm has left in much of the country; They have called for extreme security measures when returning to class after two and a half weeks of Christmas holidays, and alternatives to opening the windows.
Only the Valencian Community has acquired a relevant number of air purifiers with Hepa filters (devices that trap almost ultra-fine particles, including viruses), one of the options recommended by the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), if not allow natural ventilation, to avoid the accumulation of aerosols in classrooms.
The Valencian Government has bought 8,000, of which on Friday began to install the first 1,000 units, which has meant a total investment of six million euros. The number is far, however, from the 47,000 school groups in the autonomous community, and will be used mainly in rooms that do not have good natural ventilation conditions.
In Catalonia, the majority of teachers’ representatives have requested a two-week school closure, and a group of epidemiologists has also advocated for this, including Oriol Mitjà, who last year was the benchmarkof former president Quim Torra in the fight against the epidemic.
The Catalan Society of Pediatrics has rejected, on the other hand, the idea, which the Generalitat has also discarded. In Extremadura, the community with the highest cumulative incidence in 14 days in Spain (799 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Friday, compared to an average in the country of 350), CC OO asked to delay the opening until February.
The Board decided that the return to class would be in a distance mode from secondary education, a measure that Daniel López Acuña, former director of emergencies of the World Health Organization (WHO), considers correct given the level of contagions reached in said community. “In this post-Christmas stage we are going to have to go back to more severe restrictions,” says the epidemiologist.
The increase in infections in the general population makes it foreseeable that, by the time they return to the classroom, after two and a half weeks away from school discipline, there will be a greater number of infected students.
López Acuña therefore calls for extreme vigilance in the educational field and be open to adopting limitations to face-to-face assistance to centers in the autonomies most affected by the coronavirus, at least in institutes and universities.
This has been done, he recalls, affecting all educational levels, in other countries with a high number of infections, such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy, he recalls.
The majority of experts share for now, in any case, the decision to reopen the educational and health authorities. “The schools have been safe, much more even than the community space.
From the available data, we have the impression that infection among school-age groups is lower during school periods, that is, when they go to school, than in periods when they do not have classes.
The protocols that have been adopted have paid off. In very few other areas, if we exclude healthcare, it has been done so well. The difference now compared to winter is the cold, but we believe that enough tests have been done to think that the necessary degree of ventilation can be maintained during winter, because it is not necessary for the windows to be completely open ”, says Jordi Sunyer,
Sunyer refers to investigations such as the one that gave rise to the guide to ventilation in the classrooms prepared by CSIC. “What we observed is that, adopting all the other preventive measures, such as the use of a mask, hand hygiene and personal distance, in a normal classroom where cross ventilation is possible, opening the classroom windows about 20 centimeters and wide open the door, which normally leads to a corridor, the renewal of the air is sufficient “, says researcher Xavier Querol, one of the authors of the guide.
“Schools”, adds the pediatrician and epidemiologist Quique Bassat, “have acted as spaces to contain transmission. It is true that now there may be more reluctance to open windows, but in November it was already cold and it worked ”.
Concern about the possible role of amplifiers of the pandemic in schools has already skyrocketed before the start of the course, but the percentage of confined groups remained between 1% and 2% afterwards and few infections were registered inside the classrooms , which is partly attributed to the low transmission capacity of children.
But the icy cold that the storm Filomena has spread over half the country has rekindled concern. “It seems that the only alternative they give us is pneumonia or covid,” said Esteban Álvarez, president of the association of directors of public institutes in Madrid, hours before the regional Executive decreed the closure of the centers.
The CSIC guide bet on opening the windows and doors in class. In case it was not possible, due, for example, to “adverse weather conditions”, it opted for forced ventilation systems (such as the typical extractors that are connected when the light is turned on in public toilets). And, as an alternative option, he proposed using devices to clean the air with Hepa filters.
“They are one more solution of our comprehensive ventilation plan in educational centers. We are going to use them in those spaces where there is not enough natural ventilation, which according to all studies is the best ”, says the Minister of Education, Vicent Marzà.
The devices will be distributed among the 2,100 public and subsidized centers – the latter, in which the Administration cannot make direct investments, will return them to the Generalitat when the epidemic ends – starting with the municipalities in the interior.
The devices will be installed as a priority in the spaces that have been extraordinarily enabled by the coronavirus and do not meet good ventilation conditions, such as libraries and other school spaces that have been divided by partitions to accommodate more than one group.