Open-air classes for Denmark's students

Copenhagen (AFP) –


With ancient gods and Danish on the lesson plan, Marie Kaas-Larsen taught her 10 fourth graders in a central Copenhagen park on Wednesday, braving the cold as part of new coronavirus protocols.

Denmark was the first country in Europe to reopen its schools for the youngest pupils on April 15.

In addition to practising social distancing and regular handwashing, classes must be held outdoors as much as possible to limit the spread of the virus.

"It's very different from how we usually work," the 32-year-old teacher told AFP.

"I'm not afraid that kids are not learning enough. I think that they learn a lot by having this kind of school," she said.

Seated in a circle around her, the children, aged 10 and 11, listened eagerly to the adventures of Neptune before doing some gym exercises to keep warm.

At the Norrebro Park Skole in central Copenhagen, 450 primary school students -- six grades between the ages of six and 11 -- resumed classes two weeks ago after a five-week closure.

Middle school and high school students could return to their desks on May 11 but no official plan has been announced for them yet.

At Norrebro Park Skole, students' morning arrivals are staggered to ensure that hallways and stairways are not overcrowded.

And before entering their classrooms, students have to wash their hands.

"I think almost all of them go directly to wash their hands without us even telling them to do it," Kaas-Larsen said.

The students are happy about the way things are going.

"I like how we wash our hands and everything, because it's to protect us," said one student named Siham.

Social distancing is the hardest part for the children, and even for teachers who have to be careful to not get too close to the students, the teacher said.

The class has been divided in two, and while the kids are happy to be back together, some wish there could be more mixing of the groups.

In one huddle of friends, there are murmurings of an upcoming pyjama party. "Are you sure we're allowed?" asked one child.

In Denmark, gatherings are restricted to a maximum of 10 people, but smaller groups are allowed to get together.

The country on Wednesday confirmed 9,206 cases of the virus and 443 deaths, as Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said it had the spread "under control".