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Italy to reopen schools on 14 September

Conte promises Italian schools will start again in "complete safety."

Italy's schools are to reopen on 14 September following a nationwide covid-19 lockdown that began on 5 March.

The news, announced by Italy's premier Giuseppe Conte and education minister Lucia Azzolina on 26 June, came after a deal was reached between the central government, regional authorities and the national association of school principals.

The government's initial draft guidelines had been shot down on 25 June by the regions and the principals for not providing necessary funds or clear instructions, resulting in the education ministry going back to the drawing board.

The new deal has seen an injection of an additional €1 billion in funding which will allow, among other things, the employment of 50,000 extra teachers and auxiliary staff.

Key to the plan is the formation of a task force of principals to assess the needs of schools and to help them to meet the social distancing rules which require students to be seated one metre apart.

The central points of the plan include classes being divided into various learning groups, staggered entry into schools, and opening for lessons on Saturdays.

Distance learning, or remote teaching, will only apply to senior schools, and then only in a complementary capacity - if required - to education in the classroom.

"We are giving clear but flexible solutions: each school is structurally different from the other, we must take this into account," said Azzolina.

The education minister added that Italy's teachers would receive a bonus in July of between €80 and €100, in what she described as a "recognition they deserve because the salaries of Italian teachers are among the lowest of Europe.

Conte said the additional €1 billion funds "must allow us to start again in September in complete safety, to have a more modern, safer, more inclusive school. We want less crowded classes", adding that "we can not tolerate the so-called 'chicken coop' classes anymore." 

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