Relief mixed with nerves in Italian schools

Dany Mitzman in Pianoro, near Bologna, writes:

Class in a Turin primary school, 14 Sep 20

After almost seven months at home, it's finally back to school for millions of Italian children today.

I grew up learning the three Rs, but today Italian children have to know the three Ms: Mascherina, Mani, Metro (mask, hands, metre).

There was the usual mix of first-day excitement and nerves. Ten-year-old Gabriele posed joyfully for a photo with his classmates in masks. His mother, an A&E doctor, was impressed to see them greeting each other with elbow bumps – not the usual bear hugs. "The parents were far less disciplined," she remarked.

My seven-year-old is relieved to return to proper lessons with teachers, instead of "full-time homework". But she is sad that coronavirus means "it's never going to be the same". She's worried about playtime - "what happens when it rains?" - and nervous about all the new rules. So are the parents.

Which entrance will they use? What if you have two kids at the school? Borrowing in class is banned and everything has to be name-labelled. Each individual pencil?!

Masks can only be removed once children are seated at their desks. At our school, washable masks aren't allowed: they must be surgical, changed daily, and for now provided by the parents.

Disappointingly, our class sizes haven't been reduced or classrooms extended. Pigeon holes have simply been removed to make room to space out the desks.

Despite our worries, my daughter is looking on the bright side: "At least nobody can nick my pencil sharpener."