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School children in former Italian virus hotspots head back to school after seven months

Students are heading back to class in cities that were sealed off as the first coronavirus red zones

Italy schools
School in Turin, Italy, reopen in fall 2020
(Diego Puletto/Getty Images)
Updated: September 14, 2020 - 10:08am

School bells rang Monday for Italian students as they returned to classrooms for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which ravaged the country's northern region in late February. 

Eleven towns in Italy's Lombardy and Veneto were the first areas to be sealed off as coronavirus red zones in the hard-hit European nation. 

Now, Codogno, a city of about 17,000, is sparing no precaution as its 3,500 school-aged children head back to in-person education.

"We hope it goes well, so that all we lived can be relegated to memory," Codogno Mayor Francesco Passerini said.

Nursery school children in Codogno will have their temperatures taken at morning drop-off. Parents of elementary and middle school children have been asked to monitor temperatures at home, and the children must wear masks during the day, though they may be removed during class. High school aged students, and students in schools where distance cannot be maintained, will be required to wear masks all day. 

Some schools have received new equipment, including smaller desks commissioned by the government that ensure students will be able to maintain appropriate distance from one another while learning.

Years-worth of recent spending cuts have left some school buildings in states of relative disarray throughout Italy. Administrators have seized the opportunity to take care of some repairs, where possible. In Codogno, the roof and bathrooms of the middle school were repaired and upgraded as part of the welcome back project. 

"It is important to create an atmosphere so the students can experience the emotions of finding themselves back in school, with classmates and teachers, without being distracted by other things," said Cecilia Cugini, the principal of the city's nursery, elementary and middle schools. 

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