ATHENS — The new school year started in Greece on Monday, with children from kindergarten to lyceum returning to classrooms for the traditional start-of-year blessing. Unlike the previous 18 months since the start of the pandemic, the government intends to prioritise physical attendance over remote learning as far as possible through the use of testing, masks and vaccinations to ensure safety.
The new school year also sees a number of innovations, such as the Skills Workshops at all levels of education, 123 new subject curriculums, improved vocational training studies, more model and experimental schools, including the first six model vocational lyceums.
A series of measures are designed to guarantee safety against Covid-19, especially for teachers and school pupils aged 12 or over who cannot present a certificate of vaccination or previous illness.
Unvaccinated school pupils must show evidence of a negative self-test taken up to 24 hours before their arrival every Tuesday and Friday. Unvaccinated teachers must have evidence of a negative rapid test taken up to 48 hours before arrival every Tuesday and Friday, whose cost will burden themselves.
For the first week, the self test must have been done on Sunday or Monday morning before arrival at school.
Physical attendance of classes will continue as normal if there are Covid-19 cases until 50 pct plus one of the members of the class test positive, at which point the classes will switch to online. Confirmed cases of Covid-19 will stay home and isolate for at least 10 days, and three full days after symptoms improve. It will not be necessary to provide a doctor's note to return to school.
Close contacts of a pupil or teacher that fall ill will be required to do additional tests for seven days, in addition to the normal testing.
Unvaccinated pupils and teachers in the same class will have to do two additional rapid tests, while those sitting next to the confirmed case will also be required to do a self-test daily, except on the days of the rapid tests.
Vaccinated teachers and pupils in the same class will have to do two self-tests.
In a message on social media on Monday, Education Minister Niki Kerameus once again confirmed that the ministry's priority was for physical attendance of classes this year, with all the necessary safety measures.
"Our ally is the strict observance of the measures by all and the great 'weapon' is the vaccine," Kerameus said.
She noted changes such as English classes from kindergarten and attendance of kindergarten from age four, as well as the hiring of 12,000 new teachers. "Education is being improved and children are gaining better life prospects," Kerameus said, wishing everyone a good school year.