Different school year in Kaunas: innovative methods of children’s education and a marathon of works

This year, on September 1, about 32.5 thousand students will open the doors of Kaunas city schools. 3 000 of them are freshmen. When planning the process of the coming school year, Kaunas is preparing to implement an innovative format of children’s education- to carry out the educational process both in schools and remotely. This mixed type model of organizing children’s education will be applied for the first time in the country.

Recommendations do not apply everywhere

Taking into account the current epidemiological situation in Lithuania, children’s education in schools must be organized by reducing student contact, reorganizing the order of meals and ensuring the greatest possible protection for children, teacher and other employees of educational institutions.

Each school of Kaunas, depending on the size of the building, the existing infrastructure and the number of children going to the school, plans the processes of using all the necessary tools and equipment to make the educational process as safe as possible as the pandemic continues in the world.

Efforts are made to make the most efficient use of the premises of the educational institution and the outdoor spaces surrounding the schools. Many lessons during nice weather are planned to be held outside. If the weather conditions are not favorable, classes for specific groups will be moved to the premises provided for them. In cases where common areas are used for education- specialized classrooms, gyms, laboratories or similar facilities- they will have to be ventilated and cleaned after each lesson.

The original plan to divide educational spaces into color zones for the same group of students and children in adjacent classes is not possible in all schools. This situation is due to the number of entrances, the location of the restrooms for girls and boys or the location of the school premises and the number of children studying. Therefore, new solutions have been sought in the school communities of Kaunas city, which would help to ensure a full- fledged educational process, which would take place efficiently and effectively.

Mixed educational program

“We have consulted the responsible ministries, Kaunas school communities and we see that in order to ensure quality education of children, it will be necessary to take non- traditional measures. We intend to change the regulations of the city’s schools and legalize a mixed way of teaching: children will be able to acquire basic theoretical knowledge at home, and will further consolidate it and perform practical and laboratory tasks in the classroom, together with teachers.

In this way, the learning process will not suffer; it will be possible to organize better the disinfection of school premises, the order of children’s movement and nutrition. Every school, regardless of its’ size, will be able to ensure less contact between children of different ages and a safer environment for everyone” said Kaunas City Deputy Mayor Rasa Šnapštienė about the proposed educational plan.

According to the vice-mayor, after discussions with the city’s educational institutions, new principles of the educational process have been refined. As it is more difficult for beginners to stay focused, it is suggested that they and the fifth graders be taught in schools only, and that the education of pupils in grades 6-8 be divided into two parts: one week in class and the next week remotely. At the same time, classes for senior students would be organized for every two week- in class and remotely.

The two-week period was not chosen randomly- it is an incubation period for the virus, so if one group develops initial symptoms or there appears a coronavirus case among students, only a certain group should be isolated and it could successfully continue the learning process from home.

At the extraordinary meeting next Monday (August 31), the Kaunas City Municipal Council will decide on changing the regulations of 12 city schools. If this addition is approved, the documents will be submitted to the SE Center of Registers. This will allow these institutions to adopt a mixed learning approach, followed by others.

Among the first ones to implement the new way of organizing education would be KTU Engineering Lyceum, Juozas Grušas Gymnasium, “Aušros” Gymnasium, “Saulės” Gymnasium and President Valdas Adamkus Gymnasium. The list of children education innovators would also include Tadas Ivanauskas, Kazys Grinius, Milikoniai, Simonas Daukantas, Maironis and Jurgis Dobkevičius progymnasiums, the school of Jonas and Petras Vileišiai. It is planned that these schools will begin the school year remotely in order to properly plan the flows of students of different age groups.

The modernization of institutions

During the quarantine, most of Kaunas kindergartens and schools underwent reconstruction works including repainted walls, renovated interior premises, changed lightning, plumbing networks and other necessary works. Fourteen institutions are equipped with air conditioners.

Major works are being carried out in several city schools. Some are scheduled to be completed in the second half of September and others by the end of autumn. Ongoing larger- scale work is organized in a way that does not hinder children’s learning process. The only exception is the students of Maironis University Gymnasium; they will move to the premises of the former Stasys Lozoraitis School on A. Stulginskio Street.

Panemunė Primary School reforms the entire territory around the building- engineering networks, treadmills, a volleyball court, an arbor, terrace stairs are being installed, and landscaping is planned. The modernization of the entire building and the new sports ground are planned for Adult and Youth Training Center in Žemieji Šanciai; the facade repair works are almost completed in the Old Town Progymnasium.

Jonas Jablonskis Gymnasium and Jurgis Dobkevičius Progymnasium have some innovations too. Libraries- technology centers meeting the standards of the baccalaureate are installed here. Major changes are also taking place in Maironis Gymnasium and in the KTU Engineering Lyceum located on S. Lozoraičio Street. Interior works are performed here.

At “Saulęs” Gymnasium, VDU “Rasos” Gymnasium and KTU Engineering Lyceum on Vaidoto Street the kitchen and dining rooms are being renovated. Premises for pre- school education are also being renovated in the building of Kaunas special needs school.

Even more places for the little ones

The pre-school education infrastructure that meets modern educational needs has already been installed in Žaliakalnis, “Boružėlė” and “Svirnelis” kindergartens. Multifunctional spaces will allow to organize a higher quality and more efficient educational process. Renovation works will also take place “Ežiukas” and “Šnekutis” kindergartens- facades and roofs will be insulated, interior spaces will be renovated.

A new modern kindergarten will soon be built in Šilainiai district, where it is planned to create more than 200 places for Kaunas children and 50 jobs for preschool education specialists. 2.7 thousand kv. m area will be equipped with gyms and exercise halls, canteen, specialist offices and other necessary premises. It will be the first pre-school education institution in the city, built from scratch in Kaunas during the entire period of independence.

Another institution is being prepared to be “resurrected” in Vilijampolė. The former kindergarten on Jūratės Street will be reborn here. It is planned to select a contractor to perform the works by tender by the end of the year. The project envisages the installation of 9 pre-school age groups – about 160 more places for Kaunas children.

It is estimated that 7.1 million EUR has been allocated for all renovation works of educational institutions this year. Most of the funds – 5 million came from Kaunas City Municipality budget and the government contributed the rest to the modernization of schools and kindergartens. Also, “Boružėlė” and “Svirnelis” kindergartens received funding from EU funds.