Masks or no masks? How some Swiss schools are re-opening this week
Classes are beginning on Monday in some of Switzerland’s cantons. Where will the students have to wear masks?
Public school is resuming this week in the German-speaking cantons of Aargau, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Basel, Glaris, St. Gallen, Schaffhausen, Obwald, Solothurn, Schwyz, Thurgau, as well as the German-language part of Bern.
Mask policies vary from one canton to another. But one thing they all have in common is that masks are not required in primary school, which goes roughly from kindergarten to sixth grade in most regions.
That’s because Swiss health officials believe young children are rarely affected by Covid-19.
What about secondary and vocational schools? Of the 11 cantons where classes resume on Monday, only Schaffhausen has a general mask requirement at upper secondary level.
In most of the other cantons, students will have to wear masks only in certain situations — for instance, when the 1.5-metre distance rule cannot be observed.
The exception is Aargau, where masks are required if there is less than 2.25 metres per person available in the classroom.
School administration is responsible for setting maximum occupancy rules for the classrooms. If they are exceeded, masks must be worn.
Swiss educators expressed concern over the lack of uniform mask policies among cantons.
Dagmar Rösler, President of the Teachers' Association told SRF television that as distance rules are difficult to implement, protective masks are needed, especially in crowded classrooms.
Lucius Hartmann, President of the Association of Swiss High School Teachers, also advocates compulsory masks at the secondary level.
He noted that while communication and concentration are more difficult after seven hours with a mask on, “the advantages of having a protective mask would clearly outweigh the inconveniences".
Hartmann also said that schools should give masks to students free of charge.
"Compared to the other costs of the coronavirus pandemic, that would be comparatively cheap," he said.
Basel-Country schools do provide masks for free. In Schaffhausen, however, students have to pay for masks themselves.
The school re-opening schedule for other cantons is as follows:
Appenzell Innerrhoden, Jura, Neuchâtel, Graubünden, Lucerne, Nidwald, Uri, Valais, Zug, Zurich, and the French-speaking part of Bern.
Geneva and Vaud