STORM FILOMENA

Madrid region delays reopening of schools for a third time as snow clean-up continues

With snow, ice and icicles presenting risks at hundreds of education centers, the new term will not be starting until January 20

Council workers clear the snow from outside the Lope de Vega school in Madrid on Thursday.
Council workers clear the snow from outside the Lope de Vega school in Madrid on Thursday.Jesús Hellín - Europa Press / Europa Press

The Madrid government has decided to delay the reopening of schools for a second time, after the majority of the region’s local councils requested more time to clear the snow and other obstructions left behind by Storm Filomena last weekend. The conditions saw an initial delay of the programmed start of the new school term from Monday, January 12 to Wednesday, January 14. That was then pushed back to Monday, January 18, but now the date has been set for Wednesday, January 20.

Despite efforts by both the local authorities and citizens to clear the snow, by Thursday there were 1,474 schools of a total of 2,557 in the region that were still reporting problems at their entrances and exits. As such, the regional government is opting for a phased return to face-to-face classes, with younger students up to the second year of high school (2º de ESO) going back first, on Wednesday, January 20, and the remaining groups the following day, on Thursday, January 21.

In many schools in the region the snow has yet to be cleared, while there is also ice on the ground and icicles hanging off the building that could fall. The regional education chief had insisted as recently as Thursday that classes would get going again on Monday whatever the circumstances, explaining that surveyors and architects had been put on hand to ensure the conditions were safe.

But the deputy mayor of Madrid capital, Begoña Villacís, said that the return to school would be “impossible.” Given the mixed messages, parents associations from the city’s schools – known as AMPAs – had begun to organize groups to help clear the snow and other obstructions. “That’s great and I appreciate it,” said today Esteban Álvarez, the president of the Adimad high school principals’ association. “But there are things that cannot be solved just with shovels.” He added that it would be “crazy” for students to return to classrooms on Monday.

The regional government has stated that it “is inspecting the condition of schools and high schools and logging any possible damage that has been caused.” In terms of clearing entrances and exits, they argued that this is the responsibility of local councils. “The situation is horrendous,” said Álvare. “It’s as if we’ve forgotten about Covid. The children would have to group all together at a single gate, whichever one has been cleared. And then in the classroom, given the low temperatures, it’s going to be impossible to observe the rules of keeping 17-25ºC in the classrooms. Opening the window every 15 minutes and with the ice… If we don’t end up with Covid we’ll end up with pneumonia.”

English version by Simon Hunter.

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