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Middle and high school students at Aviano Air Base, Italy, return to remote learning starting Monday, March 8, 2021, as coronavirus case numbers rise in the northeastern part of the country. In Naples, which is at Italy's highest health alert level, schools remain open, with education officials closely monitoring the situation.
Middle and high school students at Aviano Air Base, Italy, return to remote learning starting Monday, March 8, 2021, as coronavirus case numbers rise in the northeastern part of the country. In Naples, which is at Italy's highest health alert level, schools remain open, with education officials closely monitoring the situation. (Norman Llamas/Stars and Stripes)

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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Students at Aviano’s upper school transitioned to remote learning Monday amid an uptick in coronavirus cases in the northeastern region.

But Department of Defense Education Activity schools in Naples, which is in one of three regions that have been placed at Italy’s highest, red alert level for the virus, will continue with in-person learning, a message sent to parents said.

“Regardless of any regional color change, Naples DoDEA schools plan to be open as usual on Monday, March 8th,” said the message, which was sent to Stars and Stripes by a parent of a student.

“We are quite fortunate in our community to be able to create a safe environment for our students, faculty, and family through our COVID-19 mitigation measures,” including mask-wearing, social distancing and contact tracing, as well as voluntary vaccination for teachers and other school staff, and “many other ways we protect our schools,” the message said.

Italian health officials have pinned the rise in cases around Italy on the spread of variants, which are more contagious than the original strain of the virus.

School officials in Naples will “assess the COVID environment on and off base weekly,” the message said. They noted that some of the variants doing the rounds are thought to be “more transmissible in younger ages.”

The elementary school at Aviano will remain open for in-person instruction. The Friuli Venezia Giulia region is at the orange alert level, the second highest.

Officials from the DODEA schools in Vicenza and Sigonella did not respond to a query about whether they would go over to remote learning. Vicenza is in a region that is at the same alert level as Aviano, while Sigonella in Sicily is at the lowest health alert.

At least 16 of Italy’s 20 regions have seen higher infection rates in recent weeks. Data shows that nationally, infections have increased by nearly a quarter since the end of last month.

While the first wave of the pandemic hit the north of the country hardest, the virus is now ripping through the south. In the Campania region, which includes Naples, there are five times more new cases than there were in March last year, at the height of the first wave.

The closure of Aviano’s middle/high school is in line with a regional rule, the 31st Fighter Wing said on its website.

Elementary schools were not included in the Italian ordinance, it said.

Students already enrolled in Aviano’s virtual learning program are not impacted by the change to remote learning, which will last through the week. Parents will be informed of further changes by email, the school said.

llamas.norman@stripes.com Twitter: @normanllamas

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