ANALYSIS: Why the return to school in Spain could be a logistical nightmare for parents

ANALYSIS: Why the return to school in Spain could be a logistical nightmare for parents
Photos: AFP
With all manner of social distancing measures being studied for the reopening of schools in Spain next month, balancing family and work responsibilities could become an even more complicated juggling act for working parents, writes Graham Keeley.

In the dog days of August, most of us should be lolling by a beach somewhere doing not very much.

However, until normal service resumes, of course, holidays like everything else have proved a tricky juggling act.

Those of us who live in Spain who had planned to visit family in the UK had to park those plans after the British government imposed a quarantine.

A lengthening line of other countries have followed suit, making foreigners more likely to explore a bit more of Spain instead of heading 'home'.

Holidays aside, any parents may have a lingering thought at the back of their minds: what to do with the little darlings come September?.

Schools do not return officially here until the middle of next month, but Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez has been discussing with regional governments this month how schooling will be in the age of Covid-19.

Anyway, some schools have already reached out to give parents some idea of what to expect, if they make it back to the physical classroom.

Masks will be compulsory, of course, as will pockets to carry them in so pupils do not lose these essential facial protectors.

No doubt classes will be smaller to allow social distancing.

READ MORE: What will be the rules for kids returning to school?

Perhaps children will find themselves learning about geography or physics in the dining hall or even in the playground, depending on the weather.

This is going to present some logistical problems for schools; smaller classes means spreading the same number of teachers out to cover pupils in more rooms.

When the teacher is away, the fun will no doubt start for the kids.

And then there is the possibility of children attending schools on different days.

This has only been suggested, not confirmed, but for any parents it presents something of a logistical nightmare.

It seems certain that the government is going to ask companies to adapt to the post-Covid educational reality.

This will no doubt mean more teletrabajo – homeworking. For some of us, this will not be a hardship, while for others it will pose a strain.

A friend, who shall not be named, has told me she is holding out as long as possible to avoid having to return to the office. Luckily for her, the company is not pressuring her to get back into work as before.

Others are not so lucky. A British friend who commutes between Spain and Denmark for work has a boss who seems to insist he works in Copenhagen, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. It puts more of a strain on family life at a time when one unlikely positive of the epidemic might have been that he could see more of his loved ones.

Another friend cannot wait to get back and work face-to-face with clients. So, it varies.

Anyway, for those who do not have children, all this may seem irrelevant. However, as much of the workforce do have offspring, the way we work is largely shaped by this factor.

This difficult juggling act is going to become more problematic depending on how the Covid-19 epidemic evolves.

Things have not been looking to bright in Spain as the number of cases continue to rise.

Aragon, the eastern region which boasts Spain's only desert, has had the highest rate of coronavirus cases in Europe, with 567 per 100,000, according to reports in El País.

I was asked by a foreign TV journalist this week if it was the arrival of tourists who had pushed up the number of cases.

If only.

In fact it seems it was caused by younger people meeting up after months stuck inside during the lockdown without friends and family gatherings, according to health authorities.

Celebrating el bottelón – an outside mass drinking session if you don't know – has also been blamed.

In Andalusia, fines have been increased for nightclubs, supermarkets and other establishments who exceed capacity limits. The worst offenders will have to pay €600,000 if convicted.

Spain's government has mostly resisted every suggestion that the country is already in the grips of a second wave.

It does seem true to say the health services are no longer saturated as they were in March and April. We may be seeing more cases simply because health chiefs are carrying out much more testing than they were doing earlier this year.

But still, it is worrying as the evolution of the Covid-19 curve between now and mid-September may determine whether our children return to school as they knew it – or not.


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