Most schools in Norway spent much of the past school year at either red or yellow level. Yellow level means social distancing, assigned seating plans for each student, no physical contact between individuals and minimising mixing between different classes to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Red level sees measures such as much smaller class sizes or cohorts and partial online schooling.
The government has given some hints as to what schools in Norway will look like next year regarding the traffic light system, how they will handle coronavirus outbreaks in schools, and whether they will start vaccinating children. Here’s a breakdown of everything they’ve announced so far.
Quarantine to be phased out and replaced with testing in schools
Quarantine as a means to control Covid outbreaks in schools will be phased out and replaced with testing, the Norwegian Directorate of Health has said.
The policy change will take place at the beginning of the school year.
“During the first two weeks of school restarting, you will see the use of quarantine decrease and testing replace it as an alternative,” Bjørn Guldvog, director of the Norwegian Directorate of Health, told newspaper VG.
Testing will replace quarantine as the primary strategy to contain outbreaks for two reasons, according to Guldvog.
Firstly, more people will be vaccinated by the time schools return, minimising the risk of outbreaks in schools spreading to wider society.
Secondly, schools should expect larger class sizes and a return to more normal schooling this fall, more on that later, making it impractical to quarantine everybody who comes into contact with a student who tests positive, as is currently the case.
So instead, mass testing will be used so students who test negative will still be able to attend school to avoid disruption.
Schools return to green level
As mentioned earlier, schools have been told to prepare for a return to regular teaching ahead of the next academic year.
The plan is for schools to begin the year at green level. Green level will see regular class sizes and a more traditional school day than has been the case so far during the pandemic. However, social distancing between staff and good hygiene measures will still be in place, and students will be asked to avoid physical contact such as hugging and handshaking in secondary and high schools.
Will children be vaccinated?
The Norwegian government has said it will probably offer vaccines to 16-and-17-year-olds this autumn. The decision comes after the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) advised the government to do so.
The final decision of whether 16-17 year-olds will be offered vaccines will be made in September.
Norway hasn’t made plans to offer shots to kids in other age groups at this stage unless they have underlying illnesses. In addition to this, vaccines are entirely optional in Norway, so children will not be forced to have them.
How could the Delta variant affect these plans?
Norway recently postponed the full easing of coronavirus measures due to concerns over the Delta Covid variant, first identified in India, so how could this affect schools?
The government have previously said that it expects Delta to become the dominant variant over the summer.
The NIPH has said that it expects the epidemic in Norway to be kept under control in Norway as more and more people are becoming vaccinated against Covid-19 and the government hopes that the Delta variant can be contained to small local outbreaks rather than national waves of infection.
Therefore it is likely that more local measures will be placed on schools where outbreaks are occurring rather than the traffic light level being raised nationally or nationwide school closures.