School torched following Swedish teens’ failed hand gel tests

Two teens playing with alcohol-based hand sanitizer inadvertently burned down a school in Södertälje, south of Stockholm.

“This is a case of youthful negligence,” Matti Paavo of the Södertälje police told the Expressen newspaper.

Back in August, the two boys, ages 15 and 16, decided to test the flammability of their newly purchased hand sanitizer by writing their names with the substance on windows and sections of the façade at the Hovsjö school.

They then set the script alight.

Believing the alcohol-based liquid l had burned out, the two youths then left the area.

But as it turned out, the flames continued to burn in a slow-burning and nearly invisible flame which eventually spread to the wooden panel trim on the building’s exterior.

From there, the fire then spread up the walls toward the roof, sparking a strong enough blaze that firefighters were called less than 10 minutes after the boys had initially sprayed hand sanitizer on the school.

And despite the best efforts of fire crews, the school was totally destroyed.

The two teenagers are now suspected of arson, although police don’t believe they purposefully burned down the school.

“It was a game. They have no other explanation other than that they wanted to test things out and see what happened,” Paavo told the newspaper.

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Distance learning remains a ‘possibility’ for Swedish schools: Education minister

Remote learning remains a possibility, but not an obligation, for schools in Sweden as students around the country begin term this week, the Education Minister said on Wednesday.

Distance learning remains a 'possibility' for Swedish schools: Education minister
Education Minister Anna Ekström (L) and general director of the Schools Inspectorate, Helén Ängmo. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Minister Anna Ekström made the comments during a press conference in which she outlined the rules ahead of back-to-school season but did not make any new announcements.

She urged schools to be “flexible”, outlining some of the measures which have been recommended by the National Board of Education since an early stage in the pandemic.

This include changing furniture arrangements to promote distancing, staggering lesson and break times to prevent students mixing in large groups, and increasing cleaning. Many parent-teacher meetings are likely to be cancelled, she said.

Schools for under-16s have remained open throughout the pandemic, and Ekström said this decision was based on research showing children were affected by the virus to a lesser extent. “The younger the child, the more mild the symptoms,” she said.

In Sweden, only one of the almost 6,000 people to have died after testing positive for the coronavirus was aged under 10, and none of the victims have been in the 10-19 age group.

Ekström added that no occupational group linked to schools had been over-represented in Sweden's coronavirus statistics.

In addition to taking this kind of measures, heads of schools have also been given additional decision-making powers.

These include the ability to switch to remote learning, or make other changes such as adapting the timetable (including moving lessons to weekends) if necessary due to the infection situation. 

“If the situation gets worse, teaching can be moved partially or entirely to distance learning. This could happen in the whole country, individual schools, or in municipalities or regions where schools may need to close as a measure to prevent spread of infection,” Ekström said.

“The government is prepared to take measures, but we don't want to close schools.”