Schools in Flanders get €22 million to cover corona costs

Summary

Extra money from the government of Flanders will pay for extra classroom cleaning, contact tracing and transport

Deep clean

Schools in Flanders will get an additional €22 million from the government to cover the costs of re-opening while the coronavirus is still at large. “The corona crisis means a lot of extra work for our schools, and they must not bear the extra costs alone,” said education minister Ben Weyts.

The bulk of the money, around €17 million, will support additional cleaning staff so that schools can maintain stricter hygiene measures in the first part of the new school year. It is estimated that cleaners will put in 20 minutes extra work to thoroughly disinfect an average classroom for 20 students. This means that most schools will need more cleaning staff.

“We are not blind to the additional costs involved,” Weyts said. “In the previous year we came up with extra resources for protective equipment, for example, and this year we are helping pay for extra people.”

Boarding schools

Of the remaining budget supplement, more than €2 million will go to boarding schools and other residential institutions, to cover the additional costs when pupils have to study at “home” in code orange and code red conditions.

And more than €1 million will go to student guidance centres, which have new responsibilities in contact tracing. In large centres, up to two full time staff can be added to take on these tasks.

Finally, almost €2 million will be provided to lay on extra buses for pupils in special education, reducing possible exposure to the virus when they travel to and from school. “This means that we are also looking for at least 84 extra bus supervisors,” explained Hilde Crevits, minister for employment. “We are now looking for suitable candidates who can be deployed quickly.”

Catch-up classes

Weyts has also announced that more money will be made available to secondary schools to support additional classes so that pupils can catch up on lessons they missed during lockdown.

“Some pupils now have a learning gap, and we have the ambition to turn that gap into a head start, with extra guidance after class, tailored to the pupils’ needs,” he said.

Classes will be held after school, at the weekends and during school holidays. Like the recent summer schools initiative, pupils’ participation will be voluntary and free of charge.

Photo ©Virginie Lefour/BELGA