Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta announced Monday that in-person classes for children at all levels of schooling will return next month, after the end of the winter vacation period.
Speaking at a press conference, the City mayor said kids in the capital would go back to classes as they were “before the pandemic” during August, with year groups returning “gradually” in a staggered plan.
"Some 700,000 children will return to the “usual regime" in August, the City leader told reporters. He went on to thank education-workers for their tireless efforts during the pandemic, while underlining the importance of face-to-face classes.
Rodríguez Larreta, a key leader in the opposition Juntos por el Cambio coalition, said classes would return in a "gradual, careful and progressive" manner, with all students at primary and secondary schools back by mid-August. Higher education institutions, including universities, would likely follow, with meetings to hash out finer details still to take place.
Detailing his administration’s plans, the mayor said that high-school students in their fourth and fifth years would return to a normal timetable as from Wednesday, August 4. The remaining years of secondary schoolers will follow five days later, including students from technical schools who have not yet already returned.
"Once secondary schools are completed, and as long as the health situation allows it, on August 17 children at the primary level” will then return to classes, said Rodríguez Larreta, followed by adult schools, vocational training centres and higher educational institutions one week later.
Continuing the so-called "bubble" system that has been in place as part of health protocols, entire classes will now count as bubbles, said the mayor. This ensures that there are "more hours of classes" and that students get to see "all their classmates."
The opposition leader underlined the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on education and how much schooling kids had lost as a result.
“In this second half of the year children need to spend more time in the classrooms to strengthen their learning and pass the year with the knowledge they need," he argued. "The City [government] has always defended in-person classes."
“A gradual plan has been defined so that all boys of all levels, starting in August and progressively, return to the presence as they were before the pandemic," said the head of City government, who was accompanied by Education Minister Soledad Acuña.
Rodríguez Larreta said it was important for secondary school students to return to classrooms first as they had “spent the longest amount of time outside the classroom,” as younger children had been prioritised when the virus crisis first hit.
“This increases the risk [of them] dropping out, especially those who are closer to graduating,” he said.
“They have the least [amount of] time to recover all that they could not learn [last year] and their bonds with their peers. And very soon they will be incorporated into the adult world. They need schools to have their doors open, to accompany them in this transition process,” said the mayor.
Classroom attendance will be compulsory for students at all levels this semester, except those who have Covid-19 risk conditions or live with adults who do.
University students would be able to return soon, said the mayor, with institutions able to adopt a "gradual" return of in-person theoretical classes as from August 17 with strict health measures. Meetings with representatives from both public and private universities to hash out details will take place this week, said officials.