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Schools are supposed to remain closed only until the coming Friday, at least nominally, as no information on reopening them can be found from the government’s plan to relax social distancing restrictions. Minister of Education Dariusz Piontkowski will announce his decision on school closures by the end of the week. However, Minister of Health Łukasz Szumowski will have the first say.

Will the new school year be contactless too?

Piontkowski also said he is considering several options for students to return to school. Kindergartens and elementary grades will probably be the first in line to return to a regular learning mode.

– We are considering the conditions under which this could take place and the health minister’s opinion will be deciding. As of today, however, it is difficult to imagine children having to wear masks for several hours. – Piontkowski emphasized.

He added it is still too early to give an exact date for high school exams and eighth graders’ exams. The minister said the earliest possible date is June. He also pointed out that remote learning is likely to continue in the new school year as well, in case the epidemic remains or returns.

Students, teachers, parents and even people at the Ministry of National Education are left with uncertainty.

– Nobody knows anything for sure but there’s a wide-spread belief that schools won’t reopen before the end of the year. – an anonymous source from the Ministry of National Education tells us.

Krystyna Szumilas, a Civic Coalition (KO) MP and former Minister of Education, emphasizes that the most important thing right now is to provide students and parents with reliable and accurate information.

– Keeping everyone uncertain only makes it worse. The government should have prepared information on how and when it wants to reopen schools, if at all, in advance. As of now, our decision-makers are not giving young people a good example on how to plan and find optimal solutions in advance – says Szumilas.

– Rather than working on bringing our lives back to normal, not only with regards to schools, the government focuses on the issue of the presidential election. That’s what worries me. And it’s the worst possible reason for keeping our students in the dark about their future. What we’re talking about here is that education, our youth’s future, is made subordinate to the government’s political calculations – Krystyna Szumilas adds.

The former Minister of Education also emphasises that the minister should above all be expected to provide reliable information, especially in a situation where the government and the President send conflicting messages.

– Unfortunately, today we do not know for certain what the actual status of the epidemic in Poland looks like. And the Minister of Education should keep the nation informed, providing reliable data instead of twisting and turning and making his decision dependent on the political calculations of the ruling party – says Szumilas.

Piontkowski has remained silent about when students can return to school but shared his opinion on voting by mail on the Polish Radio Białystok.

– Afraid that its presidential candidate will do poorly, for the past several weeks, Platforma Obywatelska has only been playing political games. Poland today needs political stability. There is no contradiction between general elections and voting by mail. It is a false thesis promoted by the total opposition. – Piontkowski said on the “Political Games” broadcast.

Feeling uncertain and insecure

Because of such actions, teachers’ lack of trust in the minister and government is only growing. A high school math teacher from Poznań: – I have absolutely no sense of security in communicating with the government. Even such small things as conference delays contribute to it. And there is also the issue of partisanship in domestic politics: forcing elections or extending the presidential term, submitting projects like the ban on abortion and sexual education to the commissions, conspicuous disregard for safety measures during the Smolensk tragedy commemoration, etc. All of this contributes to a general lack of credibility.

– The lack of clear deadlines worries me too. In the Health Minister’s official statements, we only hear about the prospect of a two-year long fight against the epidemic. I can imagine it’s a shock to many people. Everyone already assumes that schools won’t reopen until June, so I don’t understand why specific decisions are being postponed – she adds.

According to Zbigniew Dolata, a Law and Justice (PiS) MP and the vice-president of the parliamentary education committee, it is unlikely that young people will be returning to schools on Monday.

– It’s too early, but remote learning is taking place without any changes. Teachers are working, students are learning, and the entire process is becoming ever more efficient. My advice for the students is that they should learn and prepare for their final exams regardless of when they will take place. Now is the time to revise and consolidate the material, and fill in any knowledge gaps – he emphasises.

Uncertainty and a lack of information demotivates H.S. seniors 

– It’s just a tragedy. We sit inside all the time. Remote lessons aren’t always reliable. Sometimes the internet connection is interrupted. And what for the past three years has been a milestone in my life, the high school finals, is now the biggest government secret. It’s surreal, it’s very confusing. We have nothing to hold on to. – says a senior student from Krakow.

– I don’t know what to learn anymore. I try to revise the material but not knowing the date of the exam makes it very difficult. This uncertainty intensifies stress and reduces my motivation. The Ministry of National Education is being immature. It’s sad they treat us like this – she adds.

Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronovirus pandemic for you.

They are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities. They work on the ground, reporting from hospitals and airports.

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