Minister of National Education Mahmut Özer stressed that none of the 71 thousand and 320 schools were closed due to the coronavirus cases and the Ministry made decisions "based on state of the class" and "based on cases."

Minister of National Education Mahmut Özer answered questions about the education agenda during an NTV live broadcast. Noting that 2 weeks have passed since the start of face-to-face education, Özer pointed out that orientation education began on September 1 and normal education began at all levels on September 6. Özer stressed that the Ministry has been coordinating this process in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and has taken all the necessary measures at schools.
Stating that his Ministry has prepared all required guidelines for the Offices of Governors of the 81 provinces of the country, Özer said, "We have fulfilled the needs in all schools. At the same time, we allocated all funds needed for cleaning and hygiene material procurement until the end of 2021. This was not all. We employed 71 thousand personnel for cleaning and hygiene at schools. Moreover, we hired 50 thousand additional staff for cleaning as a part of the Ministry of Labor Work Program for the Benefit of the Society. We also established an Electronic Tracking System at schools. It was the first of its kind.  We are taking decisions concerning schools at the district level. The system includes data about the number of vaccinated students and teachers, personnel who require to be tested for the virus and detailed information about classes suspended due to coronavirus cases or close contacts with positive cases. This system is open to the use of all schools."
Özer said that the Ministry has founded a call center for answering questions about the pandemic in line with the frame defined by the Ministry of Health and added that they have also established an Advisory Board made up of scientists.  
"This Board is not established as an alternative to the Science Board, it is an advisory council about healthier management of the pandemic process at schools and development of different approaches. We will discuss decisions and alternatives we had matured and submitted to the Ministry of Health for the final decision of the Science Board," stated Özer.
None of our schools are closed due to Covid-19 case
Noting that none of the 71 thousand and 320 schools were closed due to the coronavirus cases and they made decisions "based on class" and "based on cases," Minister Özer said; "In case of detection of two positive coronavirus cases in a classroom, we suspend education in that classroom for 14 days but students of the class continue their education through digital platforms."
Pointing out that quarantine will not last until the end of the school year, Minister Özer stressed that students and teachers will go back to their classrooms for face-to-face education after the end of 14 days.
"At the same time, we are also keeping an eye on the number of positive cases announced daily by the Ministry of Health. The rise in the positive cases has a direct impact on Covid-19 figures at schools. Schools are not isolated environments, we have 18 million students, 1.2 million teachers and over 100 thousand administrative personnel as well as 150 thousand staff working in school buses. Consequently, a rise in the number of positive cases increased the number of suspended classrooms," noted Özer.  
Stressing that the vaccination rate among teachers are increasing every day, Özer went on to say, "This figure is increasing not only among teachers but other school workers. Vaccination is optional. Moreover, it is compulsory for unvaccinated teachers and personnel to undergo PCR tests twice a week and it is conducted regularly. On August 6 when I was assigned to my office, the rate of teachers who got their first dose of the vaccination was 73 percent and this figure increased to 92 percent today. The number of teachers who got their two doses of vaccination was 59 percent on August 6 and as of today this figure reached 80 percent." 
"A suggestion to the Ministry of Health"
Özer also mentioned the news reports concerning school at weekends and said that the Ministry has no systematic approach about giving education during the weekends.
"We made a suggestion to the Ministry of Health. Students sharing a classroom with a coronavirus patient are recorded as having close contact even if they do not show any symptoms. Our suggestion was to allow a student to come back to school if his PCR test is negative after a week. If the parent of this student does not allow a PCR test, this student will come back to school after a 14 day quarantine. The Ministry of Health was positive about our suggestion and they have decided to discuss it in next week's Science Board meeting," said Özer.
PCR Screening at Schools
Answering a question if random PCR screening at schools will be a routine application throughout the school year, Özer said, "Screening will be carried out by the Ministry of National Education according to the sampling system developed by the Ministry of Health. Students will not be tested without the consent of the parents. Moreover, we have discussed the method of PCR tests. The Corona virus will be tested from the saliva of students."
Powers of Provincial Directorates of National Education
Concerning the question if the Ministry of National Education considers increasing the powers of provincial directorates of national education, Özer said provincial directorates will work in coordination with the governor's offices in order to take local decisions about overcrowded schools but this power will have a time limit.
"If we have to make a decision at the provincial level, the Ministry of National Education will make the decision in consultation with the Science Board. Right now, national directors have full power to make decisions concerning limiting class hours and reducing the number of weekly face-to-face education classes," Özer stated.
National Education Council
Özer stated that the main theme of this year's council will be "equal opportunity in education" adding that there will be three subtopics of the meeting, namely "Basic Education as a part of Equal Opportunity in Education", "Vocational Education" and "Professional Improvement of Teachers".

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