Classroom teaching remains the norm as schools move to code orange

Summary

Coronavirus measures in primary and secondary schools are becoming more strict, and schools can choose to go to partial distance learning for some pupils

School’s in for winter

Schools in Flanders are shifting to a higher level of coronavirus alert – code orange – but expect all pupils to come to class for the foreseeable future. “Full-time contact education remains the rule for all pupils in primary and secondary schools,” said Flemish education minister Ben Weyts in a statement.

This is a change from the guidelines agreed to before the start of the school year, which required distance learning two days a week for the older pupils in a code orange situation. That is now not a requirement, though individual schools can move second and third-year pupils into distance learning if they feel they need to in response to local circumstances. But they must also demonstrate that any online teaching reaches all pupils effectively.

Weyts has instructed schools in Flanders to shift into code orange by 2 November, the beginning of the autumn break. He also issued revised security measures for this alert level, with tighter hygiene rules for school premises.

Under the new rules, for example, all extracurricular activities in primary schools will be suspended, except for swimming lessons. Pupils will be assigned fixed places in canteens or eat per class, and there will be strict limits on visitors on school premises.

The virus is better controlled within school walls than outside of them

In secondary schools, classes will take breaks and eat at the same time, and use just one classroom where possible. Indoor sports will only take place if a 1.5m distance can be maintained between pupils. There will be no showers, and masks must be worn in changing rooms.

Pupils will also be told to wear masks on the playground, if they cannot social distance. “This will help motivate pupils to respect the distance rule, since they can then remove their masks during breaks,” Weyts explained.

Outlining the new rules, the education ministry indicated that the same approach will apply if schools progress to code red. The government’s emphasis on classroom teaching reflects both a desire to maintain a degree of normality in education, and the conviction that children are relatively safe at school.

According to Weyts’s statement, the data from school networks, known as CLBs, show “that the virus is better controlled within school walls than outside of them”.

Photo ©Benoit Doppagne/BELGA