Between the lines

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European schools reopen with smaller classes, shorter lessons

first_imgWhile children in general face less severe virus symptoms than do adults, they can infect older family members who live in the same household who are “very, very vulnerable,” said Rodrigo, the spokesman of a parents group representing some 60 area families that share his concerns.”It’s a time bomb,” he said, adding children will respect social distancing rules for “the first ten seconds”.His group is one of several in Spain, which has one of the fastest virus growth rates in Europe, that wants the government to make it possible for pupils to attend classes remotely until a vaccine or treatment for Covid-19 is found.But the Spanish government insists children, who have not seen a classroom since March when online learning replace in-person teaching due to the pandemic, must attend classes when schools re-open in September. Topics : It announced Thursday that all children above the age of six will be required to wear masks at all times while in school.Italy, Europe’s first virus hot spot, requires masks for children over six only when they can’t respect social distance while Greece has made it mandatory for all students.The importance of using masks in school during a pandemic is “as obvious as is the use of a seat belt in a car or the need to vaccinate your children,” Greek Education Minister Niki Kerameus said. ‘Done nothing’ Some countries have also reduced class sizes to ensure children keep a safe distance from each other.In Greece, which has avoided the worst of the pandemic so far, classes can have no more than 17 students while Serbia and Bosnia have set the limit at 15.In Spain the Madrid region announced Tuesday that it would hire nearly 11,000 more teachers and set up makeshift classrooms in schoolyards to bring class sizes in primary schools down to 20.But Mercedes Sardina, a teacher’s representative with the CCOO union in Fuenlabrada on Madrid’s southern outskirts, said she doubted this would be possible, likening it to trying to stage a wedding in three days “when you have done nothing. You haven’t even bought your dress.””Teachers are very frightened. And the students and parents too,” she added.Spain’s student union has called a strike on September 16, 17 and 18 to decry funding shortages and reject the “improvisation” of the start of the school year.While Ana da Silva, a 42-year-old language teacher in Fuenlabrada, said she was also not sure Madrid could reduce class sizes as promised, she was keen to return to in-person schooling.”I need to see my students, connect with them. We know their dreams, their joys, their frustrations,” she said.center_img 20 minute lessons Among other measures in place are staggered start times, rules requiring frequent hand washing and shorter lessons — just twenty minutes long in urban areas in Bosnia.Italy has ordered 2.4 million individual desks but delivery is expected to last until October, after classes have already begun.Greece will give all primary school children their own reusable water flask so they can avoid using water fountains where the virus may linger.Britain’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty has sought to calm jitters, telling the BBC earlier this month that it looked as if “there is much less transmission from children to adults than adults to adults”. But Germany may serve as a cautionary tale. Officials closed two schools in the north of the country in early August after several cases of Covid-19 were detected in staff and students just days after classes resumed. European nations are pushing ahead with reopening primary schools despite a rise in coronavirus cases, with smaller classes, shorter lessons and mask-wearing among the steps adopted to curb infections.But many parents and teachers worry the measures are not enough, or have been adopted too close to the start of classes to be put in place properly, leading some parents to decide to keep their children at home.David Rodrigo, a 41-year-old IT specialist from the western Spanish city of Salamanca, said he would not send his two sons aged seven and nine to their school when it re-opens next month because he fears it won’t be safe.last_img read more

Ahmed, once again, eyes high personal goals

first_imgUW AthleticsAlmost one year ago exactly, Mohammed Ahmed was on top of the world.Having just completed the race of his life April 29, 2012 in Palo Alto, Calif. at the Payton Jordan Invitational, the UW men’s long-distance track runner had easily qualified for the Olympic “A” standard – the time required for an athlete to compete in the Olympic Game’s themselves.Just a few months later at the 2012 London Olympic Games, Ahmed fulfilled the lifelong dream of many athletes after he competed and finished 18th in the 10,000 despite only being 21 years old.Almost overnight, Ahmed had become one of the superstar athletes on campus – having his accomplishments tossed around with the likes of Montee Ball’s 39 touchdowns and the men’s basketball team’s Sweet 16 run.But, with the immense training and preparation needed for competition in the Olympics, Ahmed has redshirted during this year’s outdoor track season to help give him a full year of eligibility with the Badgers (indoor/outdoor) in 2014 after redshirting in 2012’s indoor season to prepare for the Olympics. The decision to redshirt was made during last year’s outdoor season.After pushing through a cross country season in the fall – one where Wisconsin’s runner-up finish in the NCAA Championship and he personally finished eighth, good for an All-American nod – Ahmed feels he hasn’t met his immensely high personal standards after the Olympics at Wisconsin.“I didn’t perform that well, I had a really, really down period the last six or seven months after the Olympics,” Ahmed said. “So right now I am just trying to regroup. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to go to the Olympics.“I feel like all of the energy that I put in going to the Olympics is one of the reasons why I didn’t perform well during the cross-country season or during the indoor season.”That’s a surprising comment considering Ahmed recorded personal bests in both the 3,000 and 5,000 meters during the indoor season. But, this is a runner who considers finishing 18th in the Olympics at such a young age a disappointment.“I kinda had to make myself forget about all of the experience that I gained, for example the Olympics,” Ahmed said. “At times I don’t even let myself think that I went to the Olympics, that title is wiped from my head – mainly because I felt like I didn’t perform well there – so I came back from the Olympics hungry to improve.”For Ahmed, taking the first step back to where he wants to be will begin this summer when he vies to earn a place on the Canadian World Track and Field Championship team before the World Championships begin Aug. 10 in Moscow.Having already represented his country at both the Olympics and the Junior World Championships in 2012 and 2010, respectively, Ahmed is using his time off from collegiate competition to gear his training specifically for World Championship qualifying – noting that there are a few key differences between training for the two competitions.“Running for the school is tough, you come out of indoors and you don’t really get any down time, you just go right into the season, and your training gets interrupted by having to go and race,” Ahmed said. “I wanted to get the opportunity where I had several months to of training before I go to the World Championships so that I will be more prepared.”Only a few weeks into his redshirt season, distance running coach Mick Byrne said that Ahmed has already made a good deal of progress and is on track to put up a good showing should he qualify for the World Championships in August.“He has been training really hard, training has been going well,” Byrne said. “He has been getting stronger; the plan is for him to continue to get better.”Still, the decision to redshirt this spring was not an easy one for the senior.Having come up through the ranks with some of the other runners, Ahmed’s last race with fellow long-distance runner senior Maverick Darling during the indoor season – who is in his final year of eligibility this spring – was a tough one for two runners who have had so much success in their shared time at UW.“The easiest word to describe him is as a brother,” Ahmed said. “We love working out together; we love competing against each other. I’m always looking for him and he’s just not there now.“After the Arkansas meet – the Indoor National Championships – him and I were sitting there talking and we realized that was our last race together in a Wisconsin uniform. We were both kind of star struck and surprised by that.”(Factual inaccuracies that appeared in the original publication of this article have been corrected)last_img read more