Although some Italian schools opened earlier this month, around 5.6 million out of a total of eight million students went back to school on Monday, facing a new reality of face masks, temperature controls and social distancing.
“It’s going fine. We started a ceremony this morning to mark the beginning of a fresh start for us,” Diana Guerani, director of Luigi Einaudi Technical College in Rome, told AFP.
Her first group of students only arrived on Monday for limited hours that lasted three hours, and they admitted the school was “very concerned” despite installing a temperature review camera and forcing them to wear masks.
“The first day was fine. But talking with a mask is difficult,” said 14-year-old Angelica Lisanti.
“After six months without school I was happy to see my friends again,” 13-year-old Michela Horan told AFP in front of the school near St. Peter’s Basilica.
“It’s really a bit scary though.”
Italy was one of the first countries in Europe to be affected by the pandemic, which now officially killed over 35,500 people out of a total of 280,000 cases.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte admitted on Sunday that Italian schools were facing a difficult situation, including a shortage of teachers, single-seat benches and surgical masks.
“Especially at the beginning there will be difficulties and inconveniences,” wrote Conte on Facebook.
He also welcomed the teachers, who he said had “made extraordinary efforts during the months of detention to continue teaching and distance learning.”
“We are grateful to you,” he said.
With the country registering more than 1,500 infections per day, Conte also had special words for teenagers.
“You must do your part. You must commit to the rules of caution that will enable you to protect your health and the health of the people you love,” he said.
Italian Education Minister Lucia Azzolina said that more than 5,000 additional classrooms were created to give students more space.
Some southern regions, including Puglia and Calabria, have already postponed reopening to September 24th as they were not ready to meet all of the new requirements.
Italian officials said the back-to-school strategy included immediately quarantining anyone who is “in close contact” with a student or teacher who tested positive.
After a positive result, the pupils are only allowed to go back to school after two negatives taken one day apart.