The COVID19 pandemic has forced students, teachers, and families to close the 2019-20 academic year remotely, without physically handing out or receiving results, nor celebrations, or even knowing what class will be like come September.
In the past few days, the Campo de Gibraltar, as with many other areas of Spain, has experienced an unusual end to the academic year.
Teachers and students, together with their families, have had no choice but to adapt to the situation, which caused the closure of classrooms from March 13, and unable to carry out most of their usual activities. Oral exams, the physical handing over of grades, school trips, end-of-year parties, music performances and emotional graduation ceremonies have been out of the question.
The ongoing COVID19 health crisis put an end to on-site classes during the final days of winter. In order to adapt, classrooms have been moved to remote learning environments, which has meant that not all students were able participate fully due to their family circumstances or for lack access to computers. This continues, despite the end of the ‘State of Alarm’ declared by Spain.
In many cases, final grades for the 2019-20 academic year have been collected online from electronic “meeting points” deployed by the Junta de Andalucía through the ‘Seneca’ platform and the ‘Ipasen’ App. In other cases, especially where families have experienced connectivity issues, parents have been allowed to go to the school to collect hard copies. Of course, an appointment had to be made by phone first, with hand disinfection on site and masks, and entrance was staggered to avoid crowds and to allow for the required social distancing to be maintained.
The same procedure has been applied to allow parents whose children are in infant and primary education to attend schools to collect any belongings that may have been left behind, as well as (as in the case of secondary and primary schools) to return books that had been used during the term. Once the books are disinfected, they will be used by other students in September under the Ministry of Education’s ‘Free Textbook Program’.
Except in specific cases, all activities have been carried out digitally, by phone or telematically, including exams and evaluations, test grading and even school board meetings. The same has been true for requests for morning classes, school dinners and extracurricular activities as well as enrolments for next term… Even today, the 2020-21 school year is riddled uncertainty.
La Marea Verde (The Green Tide) teachers organisation has warned that the upcoming school year must not commence “as if nothing had happened”
At the time of writing, and while recognising that things can change rapidly as the pandemic plays out, it is still not clear as to what the start of the next academic year will be like. Of course, the Marea Verde branch in Andalucia, which is comprises of teachers throughout the educational community, are quite clear as to what it should not be: “as if nothing happened”. The organisation is calling for an “education emergency plan” that guarantees a safe return to school in the face of Covid-19. This means, among other things, lowering the maximum number of students allowed per classroom and hiring more teachers. And, therefore, more resources and greater investment.
“During the lockdown and the subsequent de-escalation, teachers have worked from home at 200% … without overtime pay, relying on our own resources; phones, computers, internet connections etc., and certainly with the collaboration and recognition of the vast majority of the families, but without the adequate support from the Administration”, Marea Verde complains. The organisation also regrets that “within the Ministry of Education, the school management teams, who have carried the weight of all decision making, have been neglected”.
In the last couple of days, La Marea Verde has called for rallies and protests throughout Andalucía (one of the loudest examples being last Saturday 27th of June in Sevilla at the headquarters of the regional government in the Palacio de San Telmo). They are calling for a return to school in September so long as the health situation permits and education is carried out with safety and quality guarantees. “Social distancing on the beaches, but not in the classrooms…?”, the association has asked, warning that “what we are not going to do is return to the classrooms as if nothing ever happened; putting students, their families and the teachers at risk.”