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Italy Destroys School Benches To Prevent Spread Of COVID-19

Schools across Italy are faced with difficult decision about whether and how to reopen schools

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Ishita Chakraborty
Ishita Chakraborty
A computer engineer who has a passion for writing, a hodophile, social activist, youth activist for PETA India, and a linguaphile. A journalist covering Social issues & United Nations initiatives for transcontinental times.

ITALY. The first European country to be affected by the COVID -19 pandemic, Italy is hoping for a normal routine as the school year begins. The government has used many testing regimes to beat back the second wave of the pandemic. However, now as students are preparing to return to their classrooms, many schools have decided to take radical measures to keep the pandemic from finding a resurgence in one the hardest hit countries in the world. They are chopping up school furniture.

Schools are creating separate seating out of shared benches

Social distancing is needed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. But, most Italian schools are still using traditional benches where multiple students sit together. Single-seat desks are a rarity, especially in lower grade levels. Italy’s education department has put out a Europe-wide tender in July for three million single-seat desks. A decision is expected to be announced by 8 September in advance of students’ return in mid-September. Schools across Italy are concerned that the new desks won’t arrive in time. So, they have decided to take matters into their own hands by chopping down the old benches. Even separators are expected to be used in wooden benches to avoid contact. However, the best solution is to divide the benches completely.

Churches offer extra space to provide more classrooms

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In late June, the education minister of Italy laid out her school reopening plan in which she issued some guidelines to keep students safe from COVID-19. According to the guidelines, there should be a limited number of students in one classroom, and the students must have at least one-meter distance between them. Teachers and students are required to wear face masks at all times. Classrooms are required to be sanitized several times a day. The classes will be divided into smaller study groups to avoid any kind of social contact. In Rome, the diocese and the regional school boards decided that some classes will be held in churches to reduce the student population in schools.

Some still feel it’s best for kinds not to return to school

However, not everyone is ready to send kids back to school. Constanza Margiotta, the spokesperson of the School Priority Committee (SPC) is leading this protest group which is well supported by the school unions. They are calling for major changes to the entire education system. They emphasize the fact that rather than focusing on the reopening of schools, the focus should be more on bringing a change to the education system. Constanza Margiotta said that their group is going to do a massive protest against the system in Rome. The protest is going to be done on 26 September, one week after the schools are set to reopen in Italy.

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Students returning to school is seen as a crucial step for Italy which has so far successfully avoided the second wave of the virus. Italy’s education minister, Lucia Azzolina, faced strong criticism for her handling of school reopening. Bars, restaurants, parks etc were allowed to begin reopening on 18 May. The table services of bars and restaurants started in early June. Movie theaters and gyms across the country reopened in July with very strict social distancing rules, yet the schools in Italy remain shuttered.

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