From mask wearing to suspicious sniffles: 10 FAQs about going back to school in Prague

Schools open nationwide next Tuesday, here's the latest on the what to expect in the classrooms, cafeterias, and hallways of your childs' school

Expats.cz

Written by Expats.cz
Published on 28.08.2020 15:34 (updated on 28.08.2020)

From September 1 Czech schools go back into session nationwide, while many private schools begin already on Monday. Wherever your kids attend, this year the usual back-to-school stress will be doubled by an added layer of hygiene anxieties.

When it comes to specific guidelines, parents and caregivers may need to take their cues from school administrators as the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports writes in its handbook for educators: “There are no binding general rules for organizing the entry of children/pupils/students school and the movement of people in front of the school building.” 

We’ve adapted some of the questions from that handbook as well as a newly updated FAQ recently posted on the ministry’s site (read it in Czech here) to give you an overview of what to expect on the first day.

What exactly is required of schools if there are no binding rules?

Schools are required to provide hand disinfection stations, encourage kids to follow proper hygiene, monitor children for signs of illness, and prohibit people with outward symptoms of illness into the building.

Can parents enter the school facilities?

The handbook recommends that parents and caregivers drastically minimize the need to come inside the school and its buildings. It is suggested that schools set aside a visitor area that complies with the appropriate anti-epidemic measures according to the district’s traffic-light status.

(As just one example of how schools are setting their own rules with regards to interaction with families, one of our staffers received an e-mail from her child’s school saying that parents’ temperatures will be monitored prior to the annual parent-teacher meeting.)

Do students/faculty/staff/visitors need to wear masks?

Face masks are not required in the school building or facilities. But as of a Friday press conference, the Minister of Health recommends they be worn in schools. The final decision ultimately lies with the school’s administrators.

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You may, however, be asked to cover your face at large events organized by the school. Masks will also become mandatory if a school district falls into the orange high-risk category as indicated by the traffic light system; Prague as a whole was classified as orange on Friday.

Can events and performances take place?

Face masks currently must be worn at all indoor cultural events with more than 100 participants. This means that if a school does plan a large gathering — cultural performances, sporting events, welcome celebrations which are common for first graders entering school for the first time — and if the number of people in attendance at a school event exceeds 100, masks are required.

Currently, the Health Ministry does not recommend that schools organize large events. 

Are school trips permitted?

The ministry suggests that schools consider carefully planning activities that involve a large concentration of people, but doing so is not prohibited. Schools may organize school trips, schools in nature, etc. depending on the current epidemiological situation according to the “traffic light” of the Ministry of Health.

What if my child has allergies or chronic illness?

Students with allergy or symptoms from similar chronic illnesses that include a runny nose or cough will need to have a note from the doctor stating that they do not have an infectious disease; after which they are allowed to attend school. The note only needs to be submitted once.

What if my child or another child becomes sick at school?

The school is not required to monitor student’s temperature, but school employees have been instructed to pay extra attention to coughs and sniffles, etc. Should a child display symptoms, they will be given a mask and separated from the other students. Isolated children will be under adult supervision while parents are contacted (teachers will check on the child during isolation).

If a school employee develops symptoms of COVID-19, they are instructed to immediately put on a veil and leave the school as soon as possible. They are also expected to adhere to the set procedure for reporting the virus.

Will afternoon clubs be running as usual?

Afternoon clubs, swimming lessons, music lessons, and “kroužky” may still take place, however, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports recommends their smart implementation and encourages schools to create conditions that minimize the possibility of disease transmission (not changing groups of children, following all hygiene recommendations).

School principles are being asked to organize school groups or school club so that the group consists of pupils from one class or several pre-determined classes.

What will the situation be like in the cafeteria?

The safety manual recommends no self-service of meals (many schools, for instance, are canceling buffets or salad bars), and that cutlery is dispensed individually by a school canteen employee.

What will happen should another lockdown situation arise?

As of August 21, President Miloš Zeman signed an amendment that makes distance learning mandatory for students as part of their compulsory school attendance. It does not define any form of distance learning but says schools should adapt it to the needs of their students.

Under the new legislation, schools are obliged to provide distance learning, in accordance with the emergency law, if schools are closed by order of the Health Ministry or public health authority.

For a detailed breakdown of distance-learning rules see the ministry’s handbook here.