The 2021 school year will begin in March in most of Argentina’s provinces, although the return to normality will be far from complete in a continuing pandemic context, with a combination of classroom presence and virtual techniques in the best of cases.
Education Minister Nicolás Trotta confirmed this week that no less than 17 provinces will be starting the school year on March 1, with the aim of making classroom presence “the rule.”
The return of classes as a whole is the subject of hot debate. President Alberto Fernández had trailed the news last weekend, promising the vaccination of teaching staff and criticised his predecessor Mauricio Macri for "political opportunism" in his recent call for schools to re-open.
Fernández called the loss of a year of education "very serious for any society," yet some teacher union leaders continue to express reluctance – UDOCBA union leader Miguel Ángel Díaz said that the return to classes "will be slow" and said classes would not return in Buenos Aires City on February 17, despite Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta confirming as such last weekend.
Jujuy Province, governed by the Juntos por el Cambio opposition, is the only other district eyeing a February start to the school year.
City Hall’s target date of February 17 with classroom presence as "an absolute priority" is resisted by the UTE-CTERA union, which this week issued a communiqué stating its position. "The mounting contagion in the City of Buenos Aires and the lack of space in school buildings for the development of activities without neglecting health means that there are neither the epidemiological nor infrastructural conditions for the return of classroom education on February 17," it said.
Turning to Buenos Aires Province, classes there will begin on March 1 and run until December 17 with the usual holidays (now including two new ones, to commemorate the victims of the submarine ARA San Juan and against femicide). Secondary schools will have a different calendar, starting on March 8 and ending December 10 while higher education will run from March 15 to November 26. The winter break will be run from July 19 to 30. Governor Axel Kicillof has said: "If we want classroom presence, we need less contagion."
Córdoba will likewise be kicking off on March 1 with Governor Juan Schiaretti underlining the "necessity" of classroom presence, while assuring a combination with virtual techniques to reduce student numbers in the schools. The governor also identified vaccinating teachers against coronavirus as a priority, alongside the health sector, the security forces and senior citizens. Students in the last grades of primary and secondary school will be making an earlier return on February 19 to complete last year.
Meanwhile, Santa Fe will be starting the 2021 school year a fortnight later – on March 15 at all levels, alternating between virtual and face-to-face education. As in Córdoba, final years will start earlier on February 17 as a priority.
La Rioja Education Minister Ariel Martínez has confirmed March 8 as the date the province will start classes although a decision on whether the system will be face-to-face, virtual or combined awaits the visit of his national colleague Trotta. Martínez further explained that the epidemiological situation of every department would need to be analysed before resolving the best pedagogic strategy.
Santiago del Estero Governor Gerardo Zamora is another advocate of classroom presence. As in Santa Fe the final grades of primary and secondary school will be recovering last year as from February 17 and the regional leader underlined that they will be doing so in classrooms, as will all other classes as from March 15.
Jujuy’s 2021 school year will begin in mid-February with primary classes as from February 17, although the province has yet to decide between virtual and face-to-face. Primary classes will conclude on December 10, as will secondary school but the latter will commence on February 22. Higher education will run from April 5 to December 3 with the winter break for all levels July 19 to 30.
Río Negro announced that it had already begun summer school while equipping the province’s school classrooms for the start of the school year in March, as well as evaluating various protocols, which will be defined in line with the epidemiological situation at the time of the return to classes.
Mendoza’s 2021 school year will run at all levels from March 1 to December 10, thus complying with the statutory requirement of 182 days of classes, with the aspiration of having the children in their classrooms but subordinated to the sanitary situation. Students lagging from last year will have a support period of studies as from February 10. The winter vacations will be July 12 to 25.
Tierra del Fuego is evaluating the implementation of a mixed system during the early months of the 2021 school year although the decision will depend on the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic and the vaccination plan, according to provincial sources. Education Minister Analía Cubino said that the province would administer a system with alternating attendance on different days and shifts so that everybody has time in school. Cubino confirmed that while the 2021 school year will be starting on March 1, teachers would also be resuming their activities during early February in order to permit a “compensation of content” for those missing out in 2020 as well as allowing those whose final year was 2020 to finish secondary school – the latter will be in virtual contact with their teachers between February 17 and March 30.