Czech schools reopen for first and second graders

Photo: Lucie Hochmanová / Czech Radio

To the joy of many parents, schools around the Czech Republic will reopen this Wednesday for first and second grade elementary school children after being closed for more than four weeks. Distance learning will also end at schools for children with special needs. However, it is not yet clear when other students will be allowed to return to their classrooms.

On October 14, schools around the Czech Republic were forced to close down already for the second time this year. And while experts agree that the quality of distance learning has significantly improved, they also say the situation has been particularly demanding for the youngest children.

Václav Jirásko is the Vice President of the Association of Primary School Directors:

“Distance learning is much more effective for older children. First and second grades focus on learning skills, mainly reading and writing, which is hard to teach over the internet, because children at this age mostly learn by imitating and practicing.”

This time, unlike in spring, the number of children in a classroom will not be limited, but different classes will not be allowed to mix. Both children and teachers will also be required to wear face masks at all times, including during lessons.

Ondřej Lněnička, headmaster of one of Prague’s elementary schools, will welcome back around 150 first and second graders on Wednesday.

Photo: Lenka Žižková

“I believe we have found a way how to provide quality distance teaching. At the same time, it cannot fully replace face to face teaching.

“But I believe that schools can make up for the lost time - after all, we have nine years to do so, and that the positive aspects of the crisis will prevail.”

However, not everyone shares Mr Lněnička’s enthusiasm. While School Inspection data show that the number of children who have not been involved in distance learning has slightly dropped compared to spring, there were still thousands of children, mainly from socially disadvantaged families, who couldn't take part in the learning process.

The head of the Association of Primary School Directors, Michal Černý, warns that the longer the distance learning continues, the bigger the differences among individual pupils and students will be:

“This is a serious problem. Here in the Czech Republic, the differences between individual schools, regions and pupils have been one of the biggest in the world. And they are likely to grow even more. The question is what to do next.”

For the time being, higher grades of elementary schools, secondary schools and universities remain closed, but elementary and secondary schools can offer individual one-to-one consultations for those in need.

According to the Minister of Health, Jan Blatný, older pupils and students could gradually start returning to schools in two weeks’ time at the earliest, depending on the epidemiological situation in the country.

According to experts, those studying for school-leaving exams or entrance exams to secondary schools should be given priority over other students.