SOCIALLY-distanced schoolrooms are being prepared for Monday — but unions have warned the return to lessons could lead to increased infection risks.
Most Rotherham schools have remained open during the lockdown so far, providing places for more than 800 youngsters who are vulnerable or whose parents are key workers.
Now primary schools are set to welcome back reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils from next week, with secondaries and sixth forms beginning some face-to-face support for years 10 and 12.
Schools have completed their own risk assessments to determine layout and capacity, given the two-metre rule.
No action will be taken against parents who decline to sent their kids back to school during the phased reopening.
But unions still feel the process is too soon and unfairly placing the responsibility on headteachers and governing bodies.
A statement from Rotherham Trades Unions, by three teaching union branch secretaries, condemned the return to school as “irresponsible and cynical”.
It added: “The government statement that they are following scientific advice appears dubious as the most important element of safe return relies on testing and contact tracing, which is nowhere near the level of implementation required.
“Equally, the government allows for testing on the youngest children when showing signs of the disease, but it is accepted that most youngsters who contract the disease are in the main, asymptomatic.
“The given date of return from June 1 is arbitrary and we have been advised by Sir David King [chairman of the Independent Sage group of science advisors] that delaying the return by two weeks would halve the risk of children getting the disease.
“The Government claims other European countries are now returning to school but this relates only to those countries whose death rate is far lower than ours. Italy and Spain are not sending their children back to school until September.
“We represent all staff working in school and we want to return to work but only when it is safe for children, their families, staff in school and the wider community.”
Schools are making their own decisions on how to best meet social distancing requirements.
Pepe Di’Iasio, RMBC assistant director for schools, said: “All schools across Rotherham are working hard to prepare for extending their offer to more young people.
“Many are using the half-term break to undertake a ‘deep clean’ of the premises and put in place support for social distancing within their classrooms alongside signage and one-way corridors.
“The health and safety of young people, our staff as well as our wider community remains our priority and we are all preparing to ensure that we can do our best to support our return to school over the coming weeks and months ahead.”