Covid-19: Bulgaria’s Education Ministry announces rules for schools

Pupils up to and including grade four need not wear protective masks during class, Bulgaria’s Education Ministry said on September 8, as the country prepares for the September 15 opening of the 2021/22 school year amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Masks will also not be mandatory for pre-school children in schools. However, classrooms will need to be ventilated at least twice an hour for at least one minute, the Education Ministry said.

For all other pupils, as well as for those from the primary classes in the breaks and in the common areas of the school, wearing masks remains obligatory throughout the day and everywhere in the building.

The changes are recorded in the updated guidelines for training and actions in the conditions of an emergency epidemic situation in schools.

The Education Ministry said that it had eased some of the anti-epidemic measures and introduced new ones after consultations with medical specialists from the Ministry of Health, child psychologists and psychiatrists.

Masks will not be mandatory for teachers during class, while a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres must be maintained between them and the pupils’ seats. This rule will also apply to physical education classes and indoor sports, if in the particular class the room is used by only one class at a distance of at least 1.5m between pupils and with regular ventilation.

At the request of parents and/or pupils, protective face masks can be worn throughout the school day, the Education Ministry said.

In isolated cases of ill or quarantined pupils, teachers or other employees, the head of the school should issue an order to switch to e-learning for an individual student or class.

If 10 per cent of pupils are absent because of symptoms of Covid-19 and/or the number of ill teachers makes in-person learning impossible, the head of the school should ask the Minister of Education to go over to a rotating system or distance learning online. This should done after a decision by either the teaching council, regional health inspectorate or regional crisis headquarters.

If going over to a rotating system, the principle should be that no more than 50 per cent of the pupils should be on distance learning.

If a rotating system is used, the class with the most ill or contact pupils must be the first to switch to online distance learning.

The Education Ministry said that distance learning classes are introduced first for high school pupils with the exception of those in the 12th grade. In case of continuing deterioration of the epidemic situation, 12th grade pupils will be included, as well as those in junior high school, with the exception of those in the seventh grade.

Pupils in the seventh grade and in grades one to four should go over to online distance learning only as a last resort, the ministry said.

If a “dark red zone” is declared – meaning a Covid-19 morbidity rate exceeding 500 per 100 000 population – all schools in the area go over to online distance learning only after the Health Minister orders schools closed, the statement said.

In the absence of such an order, the measures prescribed for individual schools in individual cases or where at least 10 per cent of pupils and/or teachers apply, the Education Ministry said.

(Photo: Education Ministry)

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