Italian PM ‘commits’ to reopen schools in Sep

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that he was “committed” to reopen schools next month.

“I commit to the young people, to the families, to the country, to teachers, and to staff that schools will reopen,” Xinhua news agency quoted Conte as saying in an interview published in the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera on Wednesday.

“I have no doubt,” he added.

Also on Wednesday, Minister of Education Lucia Azzolina approved nearly 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in new spending on the country’s schools, which is in addition to the 1.3 billion euros announced previously.

Azzolina said classrooms will be limited to 15 students due to social distancing, and that as many as 50,000 new teachers will be hired to allow for the creation of new classes.

According to protocols announced earlier in the week by the Ministry of Health, a single student testing positive for COVID-19 would require the entire classroom to be put under quarantine.

There are rules in place for parents who bring young students to school and for disinfecting classrooms.

But measures for bathrooms, cafeterias, and kitchens, and for testing students for the coronavirus or for the virus’ antibody, and rules unique to each school regarding transportation and movement between classrooms are all still pending.

The reopening of schools is having a ripple effect across the country.

Media reports state that education officials have so far fielded nearly 450,000 applications for the new teaching slots.

Additionally, furniture makers say they cannot satisfy the demand for 2.4 million news desks that will be needed before schools can reopen.

Meanwhile, some teachers’ guilds are miffed at the quick changes in rules for teachers and staff have demanded they be more deeply involved in discussions for the upcoming school year and have threatened to walk off the job for two days in late September if they are not.

In Emilia-Romagna, unions have said that the reopening should be delayed to allow more time to prepare.

Italy, one of the hardest hit countries in Europe, has so far reported a total of 248,803 coronavirus cases, with 35,181 deaths.