QCOSTARICA – Some 1.2 million students return to the classroom today, Thursday, after almost two years of absence due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic, as more than 4,000 public schools across the country open their doors again.
This is the first time in two years that classes have been resumed in person in their entirety, with the exception of 13 schools, mainly in rural areas, that remain closed due to horrible conditions.
The Ministry of Health has issued orders against the schools for their physical deterioration, to which the local school boards, nor the Ministry of Education (MEP) has been able to correct, affecting some 2,000 students.
Another 400 schools are under Health orders to correct problems with sanitary and other conditions, but not to the degree to affect the schools operate while the conditions are corrected.
100% classroom presence in schools and colleges was suspended on March 17, 2020, and by 2021, despite the fact that there were schools with students, it was not total. In addition, the 2021 school year was suspended three months after commencing, in May, due to the increase in covid-19 cases. It resumed in July andended on January 19, 2022.
For the 2022 school year, the capacity in the classrooms will be 100% and not 50% as it was for 2021 when the combined modality – classroom and virtual – was implemented.
The pandemic highlighted the weaknesses of the public education system. The Estado de la Educación (State of Education) report indicated that students are going through an “educational blackout”, translated as a lag in the learning process.
Last month, Steven González, the MEP minister, recognized that among the reasons to return to 100% face-to-face classes was the impossibility of bringing connectivity to more than 400,000 students across the country.
While vaccination of minors is mandatory in Costa Rica, the MEP made the decision not to require compulsory inoculation of students because vaccination against covid-19 in the school population is not yet very advanced.
Data from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) vaccination program, indicate that of the more than 525,000 between the ages of 5 and 11, only 143,600 pediatric doses (21.2%). As of February 14, the CCSS reported 414,200 minors, between 5 and 11 years old, are pending to start the vaccination process against covid-19.
Regarding students between 12 and 19 years old, 92% have their first dose and 80.9% have received the second.
Contrary to students, vaccination is mandatory for teachers, administrators and parents who want to enter the educational center.
In the case of teaching and administrative staff not vaccinated against covid-19, they will be given the opportunity to be vaccinated or to present the certification justifying the impediment.
Otherwise, the corresponding disciplinary process will begin, which could lead to their dismissal, but while this is done, they will continue teaching classes.