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How countries around the world are getting children back to school

Education has changed across the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how easily the coronavirus can spread. In the US, a number of schools will stay partially closed for the remainder of the academic school year. Plans for reopening fully later in the year are also uncertain, with recommendations such as social distancing, reduced hours, and prolonged dismissals. Schools in other countries, on the other hand, are starting to reopen their classrooms. In this Pacific Prime article, we’ll take a look at how countries around the world are getting children back to school.

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Mandatory masks and other back-to-school measures

As some countries are starting to reopen their schools and campuses, extra measures are in place to minimize risk and ease the transition.

Staggered timetables

When schools in South Korea reopen, students will be returning at different times. While the country is now battling its latest wave of outbreak, Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said high school students in their third year will be the first to return. Allowing these students to return first would help them to make decisions regarding their college and career. Kindergartens, elementary schools, and middle schools will open later on.

Updated schedules

Nearly 23 million students in Vietnam returned to school for their new academic year in September 2020, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to Xinhua News, their opening ceremony – usually packed with live performances – was unlike previous years. Instead, it was shorter and compliant with COVID-19 prevention measures. Many performances and the parade to welcome first-graders were dropped in this updated schedule.

In Austria, schools started again on January 7th, but only through distance learning. Face-to-face lessons have been pushed back to January 25th. However, the Austrian government plans to roll out 5 million coronavirus testing kits for students.

Smaller class sizes

While Italy has postponed reopening schools to high school students, classes will likely be in smaller sizes when they reopen. Students will be seated 1 meter apart from each other. Also, they will be divided into various learning groups, and entry will be staggered. To make up for it, schools will be open for lessons on Saturdays.

Spaced-out seating arrangements

As one of the first European nations to close schools, shops, and restaurants, Denmark welcomed children back into the classroom on April 15, 2020 – making it the first European country on lockdown to do so. Desks are arranged in a way that ensures students sit at least two meters apart. Children aged 2-12 were also sectioned off into groups of 12 called “protective bubbles”. These groups arrive at school at staggered times, and eat and play separate from one another. Nonetheless, Danish schools have returned to partial closure since December.

Meals in classrooms

In an attempt to prevent students from gathering in large groups, students at Dajia Elementary School in Taiwan ate their lunch on school desks fitted with plastic dividers in late April 2020.

Similarly, instead of eating with classmates in the school cafeteria, kids in America are either picking up their lunch to eat at home or in the classroom. According to the results from a School Nutrition Association survey, which comes out in June 2020, more than 80% percent of schools now offer food via drive-through pick up. On the other hand, over half offer walk-up services.

Though schools are currently closed in the UK, they nevertheless provide free food vouchers for students who meet the benefits-related free school meals eligibility criteria. For more information on how COVID-19 is changing school meals the world over, check out the Global FoodBanking Network.

Older staff to work from home

The Australian government has requested older and vulnerable school community members to work from home when possible. Teachers aged 60 and older were advised to avoid classrooms on March 20, 2020 even before schools in the country closed. However, as cases continued to climb in 2020, in-person lessons were replaced by distance learning for many students in Australia.

Distancing throughout school premises

Students in Germany were taught how to maintain social distancing in schools when they reopened on May 7, 2020. The country is likely to follow similar precautionary measures when schools reopen again in mid-January. Social distancing is required for pupils both in and out of their classrooms. Some schools have also taped markers on the floors to help people maintain a safe distance and face the right direction. Likewise, micro-groups of students in Denmark have individual zones in school playgrounds.

Social distancing headwear

School kids in China are now wearing one-meter wide hats to help maintain social distancing in the classroom. The creative hats serve as a reminder for children to stay clear of each other.


Wearing masks seems to be the one thing that countries welcoming students and teachers back to campus have in common.

How infectious are children?

The question above is one that all countries are asking during this stage of the pandemic. While evidence suggests that adults are more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 than children, some children have become gravely ill while others have died. Transmission is another concern since children typically do not have symptoms and are less likely to be tested. In addition, it’s more difficult to see if and how they spread the virus.

While children are known for being spreaders of the common flu, time will tell if the same can be said for the coronavirus. Richard Pebody, the World Health Organization’s team leader for high threat pathogens, advice for school openings is this: “Do it very gradually and monitor the ongoing epidemiology very closely.”

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Why reopening schools matters

Reopening schools is a crucial part of any plan to restore economies worldwide. After all, parents cannot return to work if schools are closed. The way that countries such as Denmark, Germany, and China have taken the lead by reopening schools during this stage of the coronavirus pandemic will offer insight for the remaining countries.

How Pacific Prime can help

Whether you are looking for insurance plans such as teacher health insurance, international health insurance, or family health insurance, Pacific Prime is here to help. As a global health insurance company, Pacific Prime can help you find the ideal plan for your needs, at a price that fits your budget. Contact us to have any of your insurance questions answered or to receive a free, no-obligation quote today.

You can also check out our School Insurance guide for more information on the insurance options available for schools around the world.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime
​​Jantra Jacobs is a content writer at Pacific Prime. On a typical workday, she writes and edits articles, guides, and anything else word-related. She loves creating content that is both easy to understand and enjoyable to read.

In her free time, she’s likely to be writing poetry and prose, geeking out on her latest interests, reading, or practicing yoga.