17 Juli. 2020 (School Opening Plans)

Schools were open in Switzerland for about 5 weeks, before going on Summer Holiday. The K-12 schools opened 11 May, with Universities and other schools (Language) opening up in early June. Schools were definitely part of the 4 phase re-open plan. The official plan is three steps, but the 3rd step did not address the resumption of LARGE Attendance events; these are events of 1000 people or more. Currently the country says they will address these events in August. Since, to me, the whole idea is to get things as close to “normal” as possible, these large events must be taken into consideration.

The Swiss COVID plan was 4 phases: Phase 1 this was about 2 1/2 weeks long. It was Personal care services, outpatient hospital services, and Home Improvement stores. Phase 2 was almost 4 weeks long. This phase opened up all retail, restaurants and bars, schools, gyms, and basically everything except Universities, and Larger attendance venues. Phase 3 This is where we are currently, and it will last approximately two months, or longer. Phase 3 opened up large venues. This is basically venues up to 300 people. As I said earlier Phase 4 is scheduled to go into effect at the end of August, and this is basically the phase that gets us back to “normal” life.

The following chart is a comparison of Switzerland, New Jersey, and Virginia. I compared these two states because they are the closest in population to Switzerland. The other thing I found interesting was the size comparison. Switzerland is about twice the size of NewJersey. Virginia is about twice the of Switzerland. So I thought these comparisons would also show some of the density issues. The chart does not capture the density as much as I would have thought. You will certainly see the numbers are really different between Switzerland and New Jersey. I would have expected the numbers for Virginia to more closely mirror Switzerland based on the density of population, but that is not really the case. So obviously there are many other factors that come into play. I do think the population density is one of the reasons Virginia’s numbers are significantly different than New Jersey’s however.

DateSwitzerlandNew JerseyVirginia
15 March2340 (On 16 March 80 cases)0 (On 20 March 20 cases)
3 April17744305  (also Peak)306
27 April (Phase 1 Lockdown Ease Swiss)0 (383 on 26th)2150565
11 May (Phase 2 Lockdown Ease Swiss) Schools Opened541413989
6 June (Phase 3 Lockdown Ease Swiss)23557865 (Peak was 26 May at 1615)
7 July 46267638
Numbers on this chart are New Cases per day (New York Times )

The lockdowns varied in severity and when they started. The Swiss shutdown everything except manufacturing, pharmacies, and groceries. New Jersey and Virginia closed schools the same week Switzerland went into lockdown. New Jersey went into lockdown a week later, and Virginia began their lockdown 1 April.

I believe the chart, especially the first couple of rows, show the difference between the population density. The peak numbers (as of 7 July) were very similar between Virginia and Switzerland. The peak number in New Jersey was significantly higher than either and part of that is due to population density.

There is one real big reason I wanted to show you that chart before I laid out the back to school guidance. Switzerland has had next to zero problems with going back to school. From what I could find there have only been two cases of COVID transmission that have caused individual schools to change their plans. I was not able to find any instance where a school had to close down again after opening. In the cases of transmission, the individual classes and teachers were quarantined at home for two weeks, but the rest of the school continued to operate. That is a pretty impressive record to me. That being said, based on where the numbers are at in most US states, I don’t see how many school districts will be able to go back this fall with even a modified schedule. I am sure some rural schools will have no problems, but based on the state wide numbers, there are not many urban schools that can open safely until the numbers of new cases crops significantly.

Overview of plan

I was able to get re opening plans from 4 local schools, they were all very similar, and basically, took almost no editing to get them into one plan. I could not find an official plan written by the canton, but I am assuming there had to have been one, since the school plans were all so similar.

Basically, the plans calls for reduced class sizes 15 people were the maximum. This meant students going to school for 1/2 days. you were either in school in the morning, or the afternoon. The plans all called for one entrance per building with appropriate hand sanitization stations at that entrance. NO Visitors during the school day. The other thing I found interesting is that in school instruction was only focused on the the three areas considered most critical: Mathematics, German, Italian, or French (English or Language Arts for my American readers) and Foreign Language. All other subjects were still covered, but they were covered via distance learning. I am sure the Foreign Language area seems strange, but you have to remember, that Switzerland is a small country, and there are four official languages in the country. So being able to speak at least one more language is critical for life outside school. You will also see the plan was in place for only one month, at the end of that month, things went back to normal. Again, we were able to do that because the virus is much more under control here.

You will see the plan is pretty basic, which I believe is good. If you have any questions, please ask. If I do not know the answer I will get it as soon as possible.

The Plan

1. General

The following concept describes which basic principles have to be taken into account in classroom instruction at the   school. It is based on the protection concept of the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) 1 for schools, on the handing out of the Education Directorate of the Canton of Zurich to resume classroom instruction at the elementary school (regular school) from May 11, 20202 and on Government Council Decision No. 441 of April 30 2020 (RRB No. 441/2020) 3.

2. Scope

This concept is valid from May 11, 2020 to provisionally until June 8, 2020. All school actors must adhere to the measures listed therein and implement them.

3. Objective

The aim of the protective measures is to prevent the number of particularly severe COVID-19 diseases and to keep new diseases at a low level. The focus is on protecting the health of teaching staff and pupils, and especially those at particular risk.

4. Particularly vulnerable people

The COVID-19 regulation defines the persons considered to be particularly at risk as follows:

– People aged 65 and over

– People who have the following diseases in particular:

o high blood pressure

o diabetes

o cardiovascular diseases

o chronic respiratory diseases

o Diseases and therapies that weaken the immune system 

o Cancer

5. Teaching / pedagogy

a. The classroom instruction takes place in half-classes (up to a maximum of 15 students per class) due to a special timetable with reduced group size.

b. Schoolchildren attend on-site lessons at school during the average of half of the usual lessons. Classroom instruction is supplemented with diverse tasks and assignments from various specialist areas, which are worked on and solved at home. Specialist courses will continue to be provided through distance learning.

c. The focus is on mathematics, German(language of Canton), foreign languages. Pure swimming lessons are dispensed with. Sport and movement sequences take place, however in selected areas of competence, so that the distance to other students can be guaranteed.

d. Group rooms can only be used when accompanied by a teacher, and work in the school building is prohibited.

e. The teachers work to ensure that their pupils achieve the goals and basic requirements of Zurich curriculum 21 at the end of the cycle.

6. Lessons in special situations

a. If pupils are among the most vulnerable or if there are other good reasons that speak against attending classroom attendance, parents can request a dispensation. These students can take part in the distance learning sequences offered and process the orders placed online. As a rule, a medical certificate is required for this.

b. In such cases, kindergarten children stay at home without additional support.

7. Pupils

a. Schoolchildren who show symptoms of any kind of illness or live in a household with a person suffering from COVID-19 are not allowed to attend school.

b. Before starting school, the pupils gather on the school premises in the places shown in the plans below and enter the school building in a half-class association.

c. Every person disinfects their hands every time they enter the school building, disinfection dispensers are available at the entrances.

d. There is enough space in the cloakrooms in half-classes, it is also important to use them.

e. In the classes, the distance rules (minimum distance of 2 m) are observed as far as possible. The pedagogical and above all didactic means are adapted to the distance rules. Likewise the furnishings and the table arrangement.

8. Employee measures

a. Sick employees or those living with a person with COVID-19 living in a household as well as particularly vulnerable employees stay at home.

b. There is always a minimum distance of 2 m between adults and between adults and schoolchildren.

c. In the teachers’ and living room, in the copy room and on general surfaces (stairwell, entrance area, etc.), care is taken to maintain the required minimum distance of 2 m from one another.

9. General protective measures

a. The general behavior and hygiene measures apply to everyone and must be implemented consistently:

     – keep your distance (> 2m);

     – Wash hands regularly and thoroughly with soap;

     – avoid shaking hands;

     – cough and sneeze into the handkerchief or the crook of the arm;

     – stay at home with cold symptoms;

     – Only go to the doctor’s office or emergency room after registering by telephone;

     – Wear a mask if it is not possible to keep your distance (e.g. public transport).

b. The rules of conduct and hygiene are practiced with schoolchildren every day and checked, if necessary, improved.

c. Students are encouraged not to share food or drinks. (We recommend packaged baked goods from wholesalers for a birthday snack).

d. Students use disinfectants when entering the houses. In the school buildings, hands should always be cleaned with soap and water.

e. Half-classes are not mixed, on the one hand to reduce the epidemiological risk and to be able to trace contacts (contact tracing).

f. Between the half-classes, all surfaces in the classrooms are disinfected.

10. School complex – break area

a. The school complex is closed to the public (including parents) during class hours.

b. Adult people who are not directly involved in school operations stay away from the school area (e.g. parents who bring their children to school).

c. Larger groupings on the outdoor area should be avoided.

d. The breaks are staggered. For this purpose, the break bell is turned off. The children are encouraged to stay within the half-class group during breaks. Mixing of the groups should be prevented. The required distance must be maintained between the groups.

e. The school is open to the public outside of class. Accumulations of more than five people are prohibited. The minimum distance of 2 m from each other must always be observed.

11. Isolation and quarantine measures

a. Employees and schoolchildren who have typical symptoms such as cough, fever, sore throat are self-isolated.

b. Employees and schoolchildren who have had contact with a person with COVID-19 in the immediate vicinity or whose symptoms indicate the new corona virus enter self-quarantine


12. Occurrence of symptoms of illness in school

a. Schoolchildren who come to school sick or fall ill while in school are looked after until they are picked up by their parents.

b. You will be taken to a quarantine room. A hygiene mask is given.

c. Inform employees who get sick in school

the school management immediately and go home. They can be tested immediately.

13. Occurrence of Covid 19 diseases in school

a. The school management is to be informed by parents or employees.

b. The sick pupil or employee goes into self-isolation. The family members must be in self-quarantine.

c. The school administration informs the parents of the affected group that a child or a teacher has Covid-19.

d. The school management informs the school medical service so that contact tracing can be started.

e. Neither the teachers or employees nor the children of the same group have to go into self-quarantine, but they have to take care of their health.

f. If there are multiple cases in the same half-class (> 2), all students in this half-class and the teacher are sent to self-quarantine for 10 days.

14. Camps and excursions (Field Trips)

Larger groups, school events, camps and excursions, school trips in public transport, cross-class project weeks, sports days and graduation parties are prohibited until the summer holidays.

I apologize for some of the stilted English. My own German skills are lacking, so a lot of the translation was done with Microsoft and Google Translator apps.

2 thoughts on “17 Juli. 2020 (School Opening Plans)

  1. Thanks for sharing this George. That works well for elementary, but not for high school where kids take so many different levels of classes. But I like that they quarantine classes after 2 persons, not one, and don’t shut down the whole school. Here they are talking about taking temp when kids get off the bus. If one person has a temp the whole bus is sent home. Not sure why they don’t check temps BEFORE kids get on the bus.

    1. It does work for HS as well, because the focus is only on a couple of classes. You are not worrying about trying to schedule AP classes, choir, band, etc… Those are all done virtually. You are only trying to schedule the core classes, so in the US substitute a science class instead of foreign language. Is it perfect? Nope, but maybe the other lesson that education in the US should take out of it, is that we offer to much crap anyway. 🙂

      Your last comment is actually the biggest struggle the US will have. There is no school sponsored transportation here, even in the rural areas from what I can tell. It is one thing to juggle the number of students coming into the building at any given time. It is going to add an entirely different level of complexity to the equation when you also have to consider how you are getting these kids to the school. 🙂

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