By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service
ROME (CNS) — To promote a safe return to in-person learning, the Italian government has passed a law requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all university students and for all teachers, professors and staff on every level, from nursery schools to universities.
The law covers close to 8,000 Catholics schools, which have a combined enrollment of about 570,000 students.
The president of FIDAE, the federation of Catholic primary and secondary schools, had urged the government in late July to pass such a law, saying it was an “act of responsibility.”
“We are talking about our collective health and avoiding another lockdown,” Virginia Kaladich, the federation president, told the Italian news agency Adnkronos.
In the interview July 28, Kaladich said she had heard that 85% of Italian school personnel had already been vaccinated, “but for the safeguarding of one’s colleagues and students, it is best that everyone is vaccinated.”
The start of the 2021-2022 school year in Italy is determined by regions; students in the northern Bolzano region return to school Sept. 6; in Rome and the surrounding region of Lazio, like most of Italy, schools are set to reopen Sept. 13; and schools in the southern region of Puglia begin Sept. 20.
The government decree on mandatory vaccinations for school personnel was signed Aug. 6, the same day that it became obligatory for anyone over the age of 12 to show a “green pass” proof of vaccination or of a negative COVID-19 test to eat indoors at restaurants, enter a movie theater or visit museums, including the Vatican Museums.
The law requires all university students and all “scholastic personnel” at every level “to have and be prepared to show a COVID-19 green pass,” attesting to their vaccination status or to show a medical certificate explaining why they cannot receive the vaccine. Without the pass, they will not be allowed in the school or university and will be considered to have an “unjustified absence.” After five days of such absences, teachers and other school personnel will be suspended without pay.
The law also requires all school personnel and all children over the age of 6 to wear masks in the classroom, except during physical education classes or with a doctor’s note explaining why they cannot.
Along with the law, the government budgeted extra money for substitute teachers who would take over for the unvaccinated and for the rental of more space to be used to guarantee social distancing in classrooms.
Kaladich said checking the green passes will be easier than what the schools went through last year when they had to verify COVID tests, warn parents and teachers of positive results, move classes to online learning for two weeks — “all things that change school life.”
In March, Italy made it mandatory for all health care workers, including pharmacists, to be vaccinated.