Students in Croatia Likely to Return to School on January 18

Daniela Rogulj

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Jutarnji List reports that classes in Croatia, except those affected by the earthquake-affected Sisak-Moslavina County, should likely resume in schools on January 18, and the first day of classes in Zagreb schools should begin with evacuation exercises, revealed the Ministry of Science and City Education Office.

Over the next week, all counties should make decisions on teaching, and citing the favorable epidemiological situation related to COVID-19, Radovan Fuchs’ ministry expects that the counties will mostly adhere to the A model of teaching. Namely, according to the MZO database of infected students, in the week before the holidays, from December 14 to 20, there were 2657 infected, and from January 1 to 7, the number dropped to 507 0.11 percent of students.

In the last week, Primorje-Gorski Kotar County recorded 76 COVID-positive schoolchildren (0.27 percent), Split-Dalmatia County 0.17 percent (93), Zagreb County 0.10 percent (31 students), and the City of Zagreb, if the data is to be believed, dropped to 108 positives, or 0.11 percent of students.

“We sincerely hope that the trend with small numbers of infected students will continue so that we can start the second semester with as many children in schools as possible,” said the advisor to the Minister of Education Božo Pavičin.

According to the confirmation of the head of the Zagreb Education Office, Ivica Lovrić, consultations with the Ministry on teaching began yesterday and will continue on Monday. In Zagreb, the earthquake is a priority, i.e., the safety of students in school buildings, which is why COVID fell into the background.

Parent associations and individuals ask questions about children’s safety in old buildings, advocating for online teaching. Some school principals say the smaller cracks in buildings from the March earthquake have now widened and need to be repaired, even if such damage does not affect the facility’s functionality.

“Our school is certainly in better condition than before the earthquake in March because reinforcements were placed during the reconstruction. Therefore, the building is fortified, and whether it is safe, I really cannot claim. It is important to carry out evacuation exercises with students, adapted to each school building,” says Tihomir Engelsfeld, director of a Zagreb grammar school, whose building was badly damaged in March. The Petrinja earthquake on December 28 also caused a slight crack in the plaster.

The City Education Office says parents’ fear is understandable but reiterates that most of the school buildings damaged in the March earthquake were well repaired.

In the event of a final decision to start teaching according to the A model, the City Office will appeal to teachers and school professional services to continue thematically on the first day.

“All schools will have an obligation to conduct evacuation exercises for all students on the first day of school,” says the head of the Zagreb Education Office, Ivica Lovrić.

In Sisak-Moslavina County, the online model is the most promising, combined with a mixed form of teaching.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Education sent an online questionnaire to the county education office for school principals in Banija to find out how many students do not currently live in their home, how many intend to return, the needs for textbooks and tablets, and how many students and teachers are without access to electricity and internet.

The president of the Association of Principals of Croatian Secondary Schools, Suzana Hitrec, hopes that the second semester will start with normal classes, except, of course, in schools affected by the earthquake.

“Now, it is important for us to conduct quality evacuation exercises in schools and to organize professional services for providing psychological assistance. The students have been stressed by COVID so far, and now by the earthquake. It is necessary to make them aware of what to do in case of an earthquake and not panic. Now we are all more sensitive than we have ever been before,” says Suzana Hitrec.

To read more about COVID-19 in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.


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