Jatkäsaari school. Photo: Antti Pulkkinen.

Helsinki updates recommendations to comply with new government policies on coronavirus

On 16 March, the government of Finland announced a series of extraordinary policies to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. The recommendations will have a substantial impact on Helsinki residents and the city’s employees, greatly influencing the daily lives of children and young people, their families and, by extension, the whole of Finnish society. 

In response to these developments, the City of Helsinki’s coronavirus coordination committee has decided on the following.

Helsinki schools will transfer to distance learning starting on 18 March

Starting Wednesday, daily instruction at Helsinki’s learning institutions will cease and learning will continue as home study. This includes basic education, upper secondary schools and vocational training, i.e. pupils in grades 1-12. Teaching will nevertheless continue via online platforms and home study, and matriculation exams will be completed this week according to schedule.

Basic education for pupils in grades 1-3 will continue to be arranged in classrooms for children of parents who work in areas that provide vital services. The city looks to the government to determine the occupations that will be classified as vital moving forward.

Pre-primary education for six years olds will continue to be arranged in classrooms for pupils that are unable to stay at home, regardless of whether the classes are held in day care centres or schools. Classroom instruction for children with special needs will also continue.

”Children will report to school in line with their Tuesday schedules tomorrow. Pupils that attend will receive instructions for home study and bring home their textbooks. We will send instructions for home study via the Wilma service to everyone. School lunch will also be organised on Tuesday, as normal,” said Liisa Pohjolainen, head of the City of Helsinki’s Education Division .

Day care centre operations will continue, but parents are advised to care for their children at home, if at all possible, to ensure that early childhood education services will stay available for children of parents who work providing vital services. This recommendation will take effect already on Tuesday, 17 March and applies to all of Helsinki’s municipal and private day care centres.

The City of Helsinki will also open a new Education Helpline at noon on 17 March to answer the public’s questions associated with the new educational arrangements. The telephone number will be announced shortly.

Helsinki opens Education Helpline to answer questions about new school arrangements

People with questions can call tel. 09 310 10025 for information in Finnish and English starting 17 March at noon. The service will be open every weekday from 9 am to 6 pm.

Municipal culture and leisure activities cancelled

In accordance with the government recommendations, city-administered cultural and free-time activities will be cancelled as of 18 March. The city’s Culture and Leisure Division will work to come up with alternative methods for providing residents with opportunities to enjoy cultural events, library services, fitness opportunities and youth activities. The city recognizes that people staying at home will need things to do and benefit from shared experiences. 

”The road that lies ahead of us now raises many questions and uncertainties, especially for parents of young children and members of at-risk groups. We here at the City of Helsinki are determined to do everything we can to keep people’s daily lives as safe and secure as possible. The general principles we heard today are clear, but much remains undone. We will work hard to come up with answers to prevailing questions and look forward to active cooperation with the Finnish government to ensure orderly implementation of the tasks before us,” said Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori

”I would also like to extend a special thank you to the City of Helsinki’s employees. Each of you does invaluable work in the midst of an extremely difficult and changing environment. My gratitude also goes out to Helsinki’s residents, who have kept a cool head through a challenging situation and have adhered to recommendations admirably,” the mayor said.