Sitting in the classroom with a hat and winter jacket thickly wrapped up to prevent schools from being closed again during the corona pandemic? How school operations could work.
From Tuesday, November 3rd, tightened lockdown measures will apply again in Austria: upper levels, technical colleges and universities are switching to distance learning. Kindergartens, elementary schools, lower grades, polytechnical schools and special schools remain open. But how does it go from there?
Mask requirement, keeping your distance, plexiglass panes, hygiene requirements - there are numerous measures to reduce the risk of infections in school and classrooms or kindergartens. In inadequately ventilated indoor spaces, the risk of infection by aerosols is increased, while outdoors, thanks to air movements, the virus load is low.
However, a large part of our life does not take place outdoors, but in closed rooms. And that is why regular ventilation is so important in workplaces and schools. In the case of classes, the window should briefly be opened completely every 20-25 minutes.
But can this also work in freezing temperatures in winter? Schools should be prevented from closing again as far as possible, as this has negative consequences for children as well as parents: Not only is education withheld, numerous families also reach their limits. So how can school operations continue? We have Dr. Eva Hiebinger, school doctor at several compulsory schools in Linz, asked:
WOMAN: What is the current situation in schools - from your point of view as a school doctor and mother?
Hiebinger: Actually, the situation is much better now than, for example, before summer - there was still great fear. Neither parents, teaching staff nor children could assess the situation. Because hardly anything was known about the corona virus and nobody really knew what to fear. Now - despite the increasing number of suspected cases - everyone is a bit more relaxed. You have become more used to the new normal and many things are easier to classify. Of course you can never speak for everyone here, because every child and every person is and reacts differently.
I can already see that with my own two sons: one of them doesn't care about the whole situation, the other thought so much a few months ago that the pressure and stress he had caused himself resulted in headaches that lasted for weeks, which turned out to be turned out to be psychogenic and fortunately have now subsided.
Do we put too much pressure on children or are children more stable than we think?
Hiebinger: Unfortunately, that cannot be generalized. And there is also the question of whether they could be spared anything. Washing your hands is not a bad thing - that is certainly not too much, it should be the basis. In any case, you have to be careful with individual worries and fears, because children are very aware when the adults, i.e. their own parents, teachers, grandparents, etc., are fearful.
»The mask is definitely well established and unencumbered - children are also more relaxed about it. Some wear their mask with pride like a cool disguise, a chic accessory or the symbol for being saved from the virus. «
The mask is as much a part of it as the school bag. This is definitely well established and unencumbered - children are also more relaxed about it. Some wear their mask with pride like a cool disguise, a chic accessory or the symbol for being saved from the virus. For some it is a comfort: the other has a mask on, which protects me. For some, it's a sign that reminds them that not everything is normal.
If you ask around, then the mask is usually not an issue for them, but rather that they can no longer play so much with each other and should always keep their distance.
What can be observed in any case: The pupils are extremely disciplined - especially the younger ones like in elementary school. Because it is always said that the young people are so wild and rebellious: These too are for the most part cooperative, wait patiently, keep their distance and wear masks.
In the coming cold months, will blankets, hats and scarves be part of the standard equipment for schoolchildren in order to be able to ventilate properly?
Hiebinger: It is recommended to briefly ventilate every 20 minutes, i.e. every break and once in the lesson, in order to reduce any viral load in the room air: With a short burst ventilation, the viruses are practically blown out, the air is automatically diluted and heat should not be too much get lost so that wearing hats or scarves in class shouldn't be necessary. Regardless of Corona, we have long recommended school doctors to ventilate classrooms regularly.
»Apart from the fresh air in the classroom, pupils should go outside as much as possible. No matter what the weather, no matter what subject. «
And apart from the fresh air in the classroom, students should also go outside as much as possible. No matter what the weather, no matter what subject. It doesn't just have to be sports or biology, it can be math itself. For example, you can collect chestnuts with the little ones and add them up. This also creates a relationship to life and practice. It is important that we not only have sedentary children who learn this behavior and fear negative health consequences because of the lack of exercise.
Does low temperature in the classroom have an impact? Do the children get sick more easily or does this have an impact on learning behavior?
Hiebinger: Not really for the immune system - only if you really freeze, your nose is already cold and the blood withdraws to the center of the body, then the cooled regions have fewer immune cells. Intermittent ventilation should be short and you should hardly notice the drop in temperature. It is important to ventilate regularly, but only for a few minutes. In terms of learning behavior, neither cold nor heat is ideal.
To ensure distance: should one reduce class sizes? How realistic are the demands to reduce the size of the classes?
Hiebinger: There will always be new diseases, and pandemics cannot be ruled out. For this alone, smaller classes and smaller schools would make sense. A more personal relationship between pupils and teachers, but also between children and young people, is positive in many ways: For example, bullying happens more often in large schools than in small ones.