Upper secondary education will transfer to limited contact teaching on 1 March

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2021-02-19 8:44

Capital region shifts to safe alternating contact teaching in upper secondary education, extends current recommendations and restrictions to end of March 

In an 18 February 2021 meeting, the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group decided that the recommendations and restrictions currently in effect for the capital area would be continued for the most part until 31 March 2021. The group also decided to start the region’s preparations for the implementation of powers granted by the new Communicable Diseases Act, Section 58d in particular. In addition, the cities in the metropolitan area decided to shift to face-to-face classroom teaching in alternating groups in upper secondary education, in a controlled and safe manner. Decision-makers are continuously monitoring the impact of their decisions, so changes can be made rapidly in response to the epidemiological situation. 

Transfer to limited contact teaching 

Distance learning has continued in the Helsinki metropolitan area for close to a year for upper secondary education students. The coronavirus coordination group recognizes that the negative effects of this have had an outsized effect on students who were already in a more vulnerable position before the pandemic. In addition, the prolonged period of remote teaching has led to more learning and life skills challenges for students who did not previously need support.   

For this reason, the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa have decided that upper secondary education in the region will transfer to limited contact teaching on 1 March 2021. Limited contact teaching in general upper secondary schools will mean that no more than half of first-year and second-year students may attend classroom instruction at one time. In other words, groups will alternate between distance and contact teaching. Group sizes will be regulated to ensure that students can maintain a safe distance from others. The region’s general upper secondary schools will arrange their instruction so health safety rules and guidelines are strictly observed and no students have to study remotely for long periods. 

All general upper secondary school students who are participating in this spring’s matriculation exams will however switch to distance learning on 1 March 2021 to ensure the safety of the actual testing situation. This applies to both students who are making up exams and second-year students who are taking their first exams.  

The region’s vocational education and training institutions will transfer to a teaching arrangement in which only one-third of the learning communities’ or location’s students attend in-person instruction at a time, to ensure social distancing. This smaller ratio is due to the wider age range among vocational education students. Contact teaching will be arranged in line with the health safety guidelines. Arrangements for alternating between contact and remote teaching will follow the procedure rules and structure that has been jointly agreed upon by the learning communities and locations. Those students who are completing their working life training (training contract or apprenticeship contract) will in turn observe the employer’s health safety guidelines.  

The city of Kauniainen joins the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa in shifting to limited contact teaching. 

Extension of current recommendations and restrictions  

Existing recommendations and restrictions from the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group on private events, the use of public premises, leisure activities and remote work will remain valid until 31 March 2021. Extending their duration will prevent the spread of the epidemic and its variants, as well as mitigate the risk of overburdening the area’s social and healthcare services. The group has also extended the recommendation for everyone over the age of 12 to use a face mask. The group will extend the current recommendations and restrictions again after they expire, if necessary. 

The Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group also concurs with the recommendation from the National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) and the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) that the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland should decide as soon as possible to ban public events and meetings of more than six participants for one month. These maximum 6-person events would include only absolutely essential gatherings such as statutory shareholder and association meetings, although these too should strive to make use of teleconferencing tools whenever possible. 

Preparation for powers granted by new Communicable Diseases Act  

The coronavirus coordination group will also begin the region’s preparations for the onset of powers granted by the new Communicable Diseases Act, Section 58d in particular. This section stipulates the duty of operators to organize the use of premises that are open to the public or a limited circle of customers or participants in such a way that it is possible for people there to avoid close contact. 

An operator can fulfil this obligation by limiting the number of customers, re-arranging customer seats or facilities, or some other way that takes the special nature of the activity into account. The decision can apply broadly to both public and private customer premises, with the exception of restaurants. The coordination group advises public and private operators to start preparing for the implementation of this restriction. The final decision on the matter will be taken by the Regional State Administrative Agency or the respective municipalities, in their own areas, once the new law enters into force. 

The Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group is continuously monitoring the epidemic situation. As the situation changes, the group is prepared to re-evaluate its decisions quickly.  

Current recommendations and restrictions extended to end of March  

Current recommendations and restrictions from the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group on private events, the use of public premises, and remote work will remain valid until 31 March 2021. Decisions are based on an assessment of the epidemiological situation and an overall appraisal. The city of Kauniainen joins the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa in adhering to the group’s recommendations and restrictions.  

Private events 

The Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group continues to strongly recommend that everyone limit their close contacts to members of the same household or those considered as close as household members. Other kinds of private gatherings or meetings with extended family are not recommended. Guests at a funeral or a memorial service should be restricted to only a small group of close relatives. 

This recommendation is valid until 31 March 2021. 

Public premises 

All customer spaces open to the public will remain closed, with the exception of children’s and young people’s leisure activities. This closure includes all municipal cultural centres, museums and youth facilities. The operations of adult education centres will continue to be suspended.  

The facilities used for providing healthcare and social services, early childhood education, comprehensive education and essential upper secondary education will remain open. Services such as the essential use of customer computers in libraries and the distribution of face masks to those in need will continue. The cities have defined the facilities offering essential services, which will be kept open on a limited basis, with due consideration for health and safety. Limited services continue to be available at area libraries. 

The coordination group continues to strongly recommend that private operators adopt the same recommendations and restrictions at their sports and leisure facilities. 

These recommendations and restrictions are valid until 31 March 2021. 

Leisure activities 

Leisure activities for customers over the age of 20 have been suspended in all municipal indoor and outdoor premises. The coordination group recommends that private operators also suspend all sports and leisure activities for adults for the time being. 

These recommendations and restrictions are valid until 31 March 2021.  

Remote work 

The coordination group further recommends that employers make arrangements for their employees to work remotely in all kinds of work tasks in which this is temporarily possible. If telecommuting is not possible, the group recommends that employers give employees instructions to use a face mask in all work areas, even if it is possible to guarantee social distancing. Breaks for meals and coffee should be staggered.  

This recommendation is valid until 31 March 2021. 

Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group prepares and coordinates local decision-making  
The cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, THL, HUS, and the Regional State Administrative Agency of Southern Finland established the Metropolitan Area coronavirus coordination group on 10 September 2020. In line with a regional operating model devised by Finland’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the group aims to strengthen the formation of a common situational assessment. 

The group consists of senior management from each member organisation and is responsible for the preparation and coordination of decision-making based on a shared assessment of the situation. Each member makes decisions independently, within its own sphere of authority. The group further intensifies the close metropolitan area collaboration that has continued throughout the coronavirus crisis. The City of Helsinki is responsible for organising the group’s operations.