Italy’s initial virus hotspot back to school after 7 months
The morning bell Monday marked the first entrance to the classroom for the children of Codogno since Feb. 21, when panicked parents were sent to pick up their children after the northern Italian town gained notoriety as the first in the West to record local transmission of the coronavirus.
While all of Italy’s 8 million school students endured Italy’s strict 2½-month lockdown, few suffered the trauma of the children of Codogno, whose days were punctuated by the sirens of passing ambulances, according to The Associated Press (AP).
“Many lost grandparents,” said Cecilia Cugini, the principal of Codogno’s nursery, elementary and middle schools.
So while the reopening of Italian schools marks an important step in a return to pre-lockdown routine, the step bears more symbolic weight in the 11 towns in Lombardy and Veneto that were the first to be sealed off as coronavirus red zones.
Codogno Mayor Francesco Passerini said the town of 17,000 has had virtually no new cases for months now, but authorities are not being complacent. He said they have spared no effort in working with school administrators to provide maximum protection to the city’s 3,500 students.
“We hope it goes well so that all we lived can be relegated to memory,” Passerini said.
In Codogno, nursery school children must have their temperatures taken at drop-off but are not required to wear masks. In elementary school and middle school, parents are asked to monitor temperatures at home and masks are required, though they may be lowered during lessons. In schools where distance cannot be maintained, older students will have to keep masks on all day.
Schools throughout the country struggled to identify new classroom spaces, for instance in church oratory buildings, and construct outside learning spaces. In a country where years of spending cuts have left many school buildings run down, administrators have jumped at the chance to take care of long-overdue repairs, in some places delaying school openings while work is finished.
School and local officials in Codogno worked tirelessly to ensure the smoothest return possible for students.