Saturday, April 1

Education reminds that schools cannot impose the mandatory use of masks in the courtyards

Instead of a first day without masks in the courtyards, the Basque Country has lived a last day with. Only this morning it was not yet known. At the Juan Manuel Sánchez Marcos public school, located in the center of Bilbao, Ana watched over the patio where some 20 students play at recess. Most of them talked sitting down or drew on the ground with chalk. There are no baskets or goals in the yard. A small group watched people go by and while she commented on what she was seeing while they talk about things like “being famous on Tik Tok” or having many “likes“. All of them with a mask. “As you can see, no one can take it off, at least until they inform us after today’s meeting,” Ana told this newspaper. Finally, it happened mid-morning and the Basque Government has decided to join to relaxation: tomorrow there will be no face mask in the Basque recesses.

Because today was the day. Almost two years later, children would be able to play at recess without a mask. But many have been left wanting. The morning has been a bit chaotic in the schools of some autonomous communities, such as Andalusia, which have not done their homework in time to transfer the new regulations so that it comes into force this Thursday and will study it today. Galicia maintains them for the moment and Euskadi has started the day maintaining them to end it by removing them in the yes from Friday.

Communities such as Castilla-La Mancha, Catalonia, Extremadura or Cantabria have chosen to withdraw them as early as this Thursday, according to Europa Press, and the morning has passed normally in their schools. In others such as Madrid, the Valencian Community, Castilla y León or Asturias, it has been announced that the government order would be transferred today, but the management was not finished. In Madrid, many directors and heads of studies explained that they had not received anything through official channels. The regional Executive takes it for granted in any case: the counselor Enrique Ossorio announced it and they have even set up a school so that the press could take pictures.

In some centers – in Madrid, for example, it has happened – the managements have chosen to unilaterally maintain the use of masks in the courtyards, a decision that in principle is not theirs to make.

“The modification of the Law in the past Council of Ministers eliminates the obligation to wear the mask, which also affects schoolyards. But the communities, depending on the casuistry of cases in each area, can dictate, according to its health authorities, extreme or increase prevention measures,” explain sources from the Ministry of Education. “The schools cannot impose, they can only recommend”, confirm sources from the Madrid Ministry of Education.

Nothing changes (for now) in Euskadi

The addresses of some centers where the measure has not been fully implemented (although it was announced that it was going to be done) did not know what to expect this morning. There are schools that yesterday sent circulars to families explaining that the obligation was maintained and this morning they have sent the opposite instruction. Others have unilaterally chosen to maintain the obligation, a decision that in principle does not correspond to them but to the regional governments as the regulations are a Royal Decree.

“A school center is not who. The prevention measures against COVID are only dictated by the health authorities, and the educational authorities implement them, but we do not dictate them,” they remember from Education.

Part of the controversy with this issue is that point B of section 1 of the Royal Decree that relaxes the use of masks establishes that this will be mandatory “in mass events that take place in outdoor spaces, when attendees are in foot”. Does a patio answer this description? For most communities, no.

At the Nuestra Señora del Pilar school, they lamented this morning the confusion and the communication policy of the administrations. Natalia, the director, and Yolanda, the head of studies, protested the “commotion” caused by the media announcing the end of the masks before the schools are officially informed.

In addition, doubts remain unresolved until each community comes down to the adaptation of the regulations to the reality of the schools. The courtyard of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, for example, is interior, but has no roof. It has a soccer field and a basketball net. Is it an outdoor space? Wouldn’t the use of both courts at the same time be considered a “multitude” act?

The Primary and Secondary school children who study there went out to the playground in four time slots so as not to mix with each other and to have enough space to avoid possible coronavirus infections. Furthermore, the Primary students only go out to the patio with their class, without mixing with the groups that make up the course. “We had to go class by class this morning to warn them that they could not remove the mask, because some had seen it on TV and already thought they could go out to the patio without it. We have already told them that when they tell us We will officially announce it to the whole school over the loudspeaker”, joked the director, who has also sent a statement to the families so that there would be no doubts about it.

“Without a doubt they are the best behaved”

At 11.30 it is the turn of the Secondary school recess. Some of them play soccer, others basketball, and a small group sits in a corner with a blanket to rest and watch the rest. Among those who play sports there are several who wear the mask below their nose, but in general they all wear it. “Sometimes it is difficult for them to pay attention, especially the older ones, who are already teenagers and rebel. The little ones, who the poor always go out to the patio together with the same group, are undoubtedly the ones who behave better and more respect the COVID-19 regulations”, says the director, who confesses that she has been checking the page of the Department of Education all morning in case they upload the expected document: the one that puts an end to the use of masks in the schoolyards.

In Eskoriaza, Gipuzkoa, Ione Blanco is in charge of accompanying Infant and Primary students to the dining room. She gives them food and watches recess until they enter the afternoon class or their parents come to pick them up. “They are obliged to wear it, but the truth is that we spent the entire dining room patio telling them to put on the mask. Until now it has been like that, I don’t know if what they say today will change anything,” she says.