Turkey plans to reopen schools nationwide on August 31, to get students back into classrooms and free up working parents, assuming a recent stabilisation in coronavirus cases holds.
Teachers and administrators are preparing on-site health precautions, but two government sources told Reuters that the daily infection rate may need to dip below the more than 900 seen recently to allow them to execute what they called Plan A.
Schools shifted to distance education in March when Turkey identified its first case and began restricting movement.
Much of the economy reopened on June 1, after the school year ended, but masks and other hygiene measures are still required in public.
“We have been told that the schools will reopen, so we will see how it goes,” said a first-grade teacher in the southern city of Antalya. “I do feel a bit concerned about my students’ and my family’s health, of course.”
About half of Turkey’s nearly 230,000 cases and more than 5,600 deaths are in its biggest city, Istanbul, the government says. The capital Ankara and Diyarbakir in the mainly Kurdish southeast have also been hotspots.
One government source said that “if the number of cases decreases, all schools will be opened”, but that otherwise, schools in high-infection areas might remain closed.
A second senior official said classes might have to remain online for some southeastern provinces. “The normalisation is underway … but the numbers should have fallen faster.”
A primary school teacher based in the southeast said some of her students had not had the means to attend online classes, adding: “Online teaching can never be as efficient as classroom learning.”
President Tayyip Erdogan and his cabinet will make a final decision late next month based on the spread of infection and advice from scientists, the officials said.
Turkey’s economy virtually stagnated in the second quarter and is expected to shrink this year.