Empty desks stand in a classroom of the Casa del Colibri school in Mexico City, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. The school has been teaching its students remotely via the internet due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Distance learning will begin for more than 30 million Mexican school children Aug. 24, but a return to classrooms will remain an uncertain goal, the country’s education secretary said Monday.

Secretary Esteban Moctezuma Barragán and executives from the country’s largest television networks presented in broad strokes a plan to put educational instruction on television.

Moctezuma said that risks to in-person education continue being too high. Officials fear children could become coronavirus carriers, infecting relatives at home.

“We wanted to return to in-person classes, but it is not possible, nor prudent,” Moctezuma said.

Students will not return to classrooms until the government’s version of a stoplight to evaluate the pandemic’s risk is safely at green.

Mexico has reported 443,813 coronavirus infections and 48,012 deaths.

Throughout Latin America, nearly all schooling is being carried out online or through television as the pandemic continues to surge here. School districts around the world are struggling with the decision, knowing that for most students there is no substitute for in-person instruction.

Moctezuma cited several countries that had opened schools and then had to close them as infections spread.

Students continue attending schools in Nicaragua and students are scheduled to return to the classroom in Cuba Sept. 1. In Bolivia, the government announced Sunday it was ending the school year because it was impossible to guarantee free and universal education in a country where most rural areas lack access to the internet.

In Mexico, remote indigenous communities will be able to access instruction through government radio stations. Moctezuma said television was a good option because government data shows 94% of homes have one. Some 140 million free textbooks will be distributed, and homes that have no television can listen to radio classes.

In cases of multiple children at different grade levels in a home, Moctezuma said programming would try to take this into account and that classes would be repeated at multiple time slots.

“It is returning to classes with all of the formality,” said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. “This is not an emergency or transitory course. It is starting classes in accordance with the education plan.”

The president said details about the costs would be shared soon, but that they would be minimal.


AP writers Andrea Rodriguez in Havana, Cuba and Carlos Valdez in La Paz, Bolivia contributed to this report.