How Sweden’s upper secondary schools are adapting to coronavirus

How Sweden's upper secondary schools are adapting to coronavirus
Gymnasiums in Sweden are preparing to receive students for the first time in five months. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT
This week, Sweden's 'gymnasium' upper secondary schools for over 16-year-olds will restart physical classes, five months after they were closed in March. We look at what will be different.
Sweden shut upper secondary schools on March 17th, the same day it closed universities. This week, they will reopen for the first time.
 
Many teachers are concerned that it will be in practice impossible to keep even one metre's distance between pupils in classrooms, given the number of pupils. 
 
While headteachers have been given leeway to rearrange the school day to reduce crowding, teachers told DN that this had not happened in practice, with many expected to return to the same classroom, the same schedule and the same number of students they had before schools closed. 
 
Here are some of the recommendations in place. 
 
 
Staggered school starts
 
In Stockholm many gymnasium schools have split their new students into three groups, who will each be given their own school start ceremony, to reduce crowding. Second and third years will start school without any sort of welcome ceremony. 
 
Keep giving digital classes if necessary
 
While upper secondary schools are reopening, local municipalities and teachers are being given leeway to keep teaching some classes online, particularly if this deemed necessary to reduce crowding on public transport. 
 
In Gothenburg, the city council has told upper secondary schools that they cannot have lessons that start before 9am, that the vocational streams can only have 80 percent of pupils in school at any one time, and the academic streams can only have 60 percent. This means many classes will remain online. 
 

Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

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Increase social distance 
 
According to the guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Sweden, upper secondary schools should increase the distance between seats in classrooms, dining rooms, cafés, and other spaces as much as possible.  
 
If large numbers of pupils gather in a certain area, such as a corridor, dining area, or hall, teachers should try to break them up. 
 
School events with involve large gatherings, such as parent-teacher meetings, sit-down exams, musical performances, and morning assemblies, should be cancelled or rearranged. 
 
Students should stay outdoors as much as possible in breaks and at other times. 
 
Activities which involve close physical contact, such as certain parts of physical education, should be avoided. 
 
Lunches and other breaks should be staggered to reduce crowding. 
 
Hygiene 
 
Hand washing facilities should be made available with soap and paper towels, and hand sanitiser should be available in areas where there are no basins available, such as the entry to dining rooms. 
 
School toilets, tables, and door handles should be washed at least one a day with a mild alkaline detergent. 
 
Teachers and students should stay home if ill 
 
According to Sweden's National Agency for Education, teachers or students who have mild respiratory symptoms which might be coronavirus but which do not require taking time off sick can stay at home and revert to online education if necessary. 
 

Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
 
Teachers and students should stay home if they are in a risk group
 
Schools should also make provisions for teachers and students who are in a risk group, allowing them to teach or learn online if necessary. 
 
Information 
 
Teachers should make sure that pupils are properly informed about the pandemic and the measures being taken collectively to slow down the spread of the virus, if possible including this in lessons in the relevant subjects. 
 
Schools should also make sure that pupils who need extra help to handle the situation get support.

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