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Britain divided over reopening schools as virus rules ease

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Britain divided over reopening schools as virus rules ease

LONDON (AP) — David Waugh is putting down barrier tape and spraying yellow lines on the ground outside the main door of his school near Manchester.

Waugh, who oversees five schools in northwestern England, already has painted yellow arrows to ensure that children follow a one-way path around the building when they return next month from an extended break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Soft furniture and play equipment have been cordoned off, and desks have been spread apart. Waugh has stocked up on 7,500 face masks, hundreds of pairs of gloves, hand sanitizer and other supplies. “The government says we don’t need them, but I certainly couldn’t have risked not having them,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s the unknown, the utter unknown. We’re taking baby steps forward at the moment, trying to win the hearts and minds of parents and teachers.”

Since March 20, the coronavirus has forced British schools to close to all but a small number of key workers’ children and those under social care. The government wants children to start returning to primary schools in stages from June 1. Those going back first include the youngest — ages 4 to 6. Daycare providers also have been told to start welcoming back babies and toddlers from June.

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The reopening has divided the country and faced vehement opposition from teachers unions, which say it’s too risky for everyone and could cause a spike in infections. Dozens of local authorities have refused to follow the reopening timetable. Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have their own governments, are not opening schools until August at the earliest.

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