October 19, 2021

The Queens County Citizen

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No masks, no distance: Schools in Denmark defy COVID-19 – so far with success

No masks, no distance: Schools in Denmark defy COVID-19 - so far with success

Every seat in Jens Rodgard’s Grade 5 class was filled – no physical distance at all.

When a student raises their hand with a question, the roadguard is on their side for a moment and tends to help.

“You have to be around them and help them, help them with spelling, help them make choices and we can not do it from a distance for proper teaching,” Rodgard said.

Students should clean their hands every time they enter the school and the classes should not mix with each other. But there is no mask in sight.

Phase 2 of the school reopening is about a month into the second semester this week at Alhom Public School in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“Right now we are trying to make it as simple as possible, [to] Don’t intimidate any children, “said Rodguard, who has been teaching at Alhom for 28 years.

See | Renee Philippon reports on the reopening of schools in Denmark:

Schools in Denmark are now in the 2nd stage of reopening and some COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. There have been some cases and outbreaks in schools, but they have not spread widely. 2:49

The school aims to make the experience of education as common as possible during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Other schools have more rules. At this stage, Denmark will allow each school to bring its own COVID-19 security plans.

Right now, the country’s strategy of having a coronavirus seems to be working. Countries around the world, including Canada, have seen the Danish model in designing their own school plans.

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Hygiene Criteria ‘First Priority’

Unlike other countries in Europe such as Italy and Spain, Denmark was not severely damaged by COVID, but it went into lockdown in March. When the government began to lift restrictions, it gave priority to opening schools over bars and restaurants. The rules were strict at the time amid concerns that it would spread.

Alhome principal Soren With said that being close to students is risky, but he wants the school experience to be as casual as possible. (Lily Martin / CBC)

“Ensuring that the hygiene standard is good is our first priority,” said Soren With, the Alhome principal, adding that the school followed all the protocols prescribed by the government in the first phase of reopening the school.

Additional teachers were hired so that classes could be divided into three groups, with breaks variable, with each class assigned to specific toilets and, when possible, learning outside.

Student Saida Se, 12, said they were happy the schools reopened in April because the lockdown was a bore. “It’s so much fun to have your friends again and talk to them and play soccer.”

When school started she agreed, the virus was big. “It’s really hard; you can not stop thinking about it.”

Her classmate Zeppe Rank Gerulf also recalled being nervous: “I’m a little scared because no one knows what it is – what happens if you get sick?”

Grade 5 students Zeppe Rank Gerulf, left, Saida Say, Center, and Yusuf Karimi talk about their experience of going to school during an epidemic. They admit that they were nervous at first. (Lily Martin / CBC)

Cooperation between the government and teachers

With strict restrictions in place, With said: no one at his school tested positive for COVID-19 in the spring. Some schools in the country have been hit, but there is no spike in the total number of infections that have caused them to reopen.

That is why when the second semester school started in August, the government wanted to go safely to the 2nd phase of its plan.

“It’s up to the schools to see what is the best way for us to move forward with our children,” said Dorte Lange, vice president of the Danish Union of Teachers.

She attributed the success in Denmark to the cooperation between the government and the teacher unions and said that they were in constant communication and addressed staff concerns from the outset.

Dorte Lange, vice president of the Danish Union of Teachers, has collaborated with the government on a plan to successfully reopen schools in Denmark. (Lily Martin / CBC)

Lange said teachers’ confidence has deteriorated. “Parents have met with teachers, they feel safe about it. Telling them that we can deal with this situation also makes parents feel safe, and that’s very important.”

In relation to trends

The return to school has led to worrying trends in other parts of the world. In Israel, for example, schools went back in May, but the spreading virus forced hundreds to shut down and caused the re-emergence of COVID in that country.

In the US, some schools in Texas and Georgia had to close shortly after reopening in August.

Lange said teacher unions in Canada have approached her for guidance. She is happy to give advice, but it is impossible to compare a country like Denmark and Canada because the COVID experience in the two countries is different.

Denmark has a population of just 5.8 million, which is not as concentrated in the big cities as in Canada. Nearly 20,000 cases were reported with nearly 600 deaths in Denmark, 135,000 cases and 9,000 deaths in Canada.

Like most parts of the world, Denmark is currently on the rise in cases, especially in their 20s.

Virologist Alan Randrup Thomsen said he was concerned about the spike in recent cases across Denmark. (Lily Martin / CBC)

“I think we’re very relaxed, and I’m going to be a victim of our own success, because we have never experienced how bad the epidemic is,” said Alan Randrop Thomsen, a virologist at the University of Copenhagen.

He said if the current spike continues, more sanctions will be imposed on the Danish population. But closing schools again is the last resort.

“Although there is a lot of evidence that children are infected, they do not become seriously ill and they do not spread the disease,” said Randrop Thomsen, although not much is known.

He becomes more concerned about the spread of teens and young people going back to college and university.

‘Breathe hard’

At the Alhom School Gate this week, there was a relaxed attitude among parents. It looked like a pre-Kovid scene. They shrugged and chatted with each other.

COVID rules prevented going over school property.

This week, it was reported 18 classes at a school in Roskilde, A city west of Copenhagen, sent home after a coronavirus infection.

Parents drop off children at Alhom School, where second-semester teaching has been taking place since the outbreak began. (Lily Martin / CBC)

Some Alhom parents admitted that they were scared when they first sent their children to school, but felt it was necessary. Katza Barefoot, who has three young children at the school, gave this advice for Canadian parents.

“Take a deep breath and let them go back. If anything happens, you take care … but life must go on.”