Schools to allow primary students for full days, half the week; Students could get tested for coronavirus
With reporting from Jamie de Geir.
All primary school students in the Netherlands should attend full days of classes, but for half as many days, said the PO-Raad, a leading organization advising primary schools in the Netherlands. The group presented on Wednesday a six-page overview of its protocol for allowing students back into classrooms on May 11 with the government loosening the social distancing restrictions for children which were put in place to fight the spread of coronavirus.
The advice includes the suggestion that students with health complaints get tested by health officials from the regional GGD, a detail which had not yet been discussed with the GGD or RIVM, spokespersons for those groups told NL Times.
Divided student body with teachers focused on classroom work
Schools can work within public health guidelines by dividing the entire student body into two halves which remain the same through the end of the school year, the memo states. Only one half will be physically present at any given time, with schools told to try and keep siblings in the same half.
"A maximum of half of the pupils are present in the school thus keeping as much space as possible between the students, but above all between the adults and students," the PO-Raad said. Students may get within 1.5 meters of each other, but staff should maintain that distance from students and other staff members.
In the advisory document, schools were told that they should decide how teachers spend their in-class teaching time, and how they will support teachers to make sure they focus primarily on the children in physically present in their classrooms. "Because the teacher is fully charged with taking care of the physical education, the focus is on that," the advisory memo states.
Schools will continue to use distance learning to fill in the gaps as much as possible, and other homework assignments are also possible.
Any communication with parents should also be done digitally, with teachers being advised not to communicate face-to-face with parents.
Sick children and staff members can get tested for coronavirus
Sick children and sick staff members will not be permitted in schools, and will be told to remain home if they have symptoms of a cold or if they have a fever of 38 degrees. Anyone sneezing, coughing, or having trouble breathing must also stay home.
Also anyone who develops those symptoms during the day will be sent home straight away, the PO-Raad said. "When in doubt, a student's temperature can be measured at school," the memo states. "If at school: an ear thermometer is used for this which is disinfected after use."
The PO-Raad said, "If possible, students with complaints will get tested by the GGD, with the permission of the parents or guardians." Public health agency RIVM told NL Times that the country does have the testing capacity to accomplish this, even though thus far a maximum of about seven thousand tests were being administered daily. A spokesperson for the GGD had also not yet heard of the plan to test students.
In order to return, any person recovering from illness must be symptom-free for at least 24 hours. Schools with more than one sick child presenting signs of coronavirus will be advised to notify their regional GGD.
The advisory also said that students who are in a high-risk group, or who have a family member in their household who is at greater risk of illness, may be exempted from in-school education. Similarly, vulnerable employees should also be exempted from being present on school grounds.
Staff members should not wear their own personal protective equipment, unless several adults get in close contact with each other in an emergency situation.
Teachers who are not able to go to work can be replaced by a substitute teacher.
What schools should look like
When schools open their doors, they are advised not to give entry to all schoolchildren at once, but rather to stagger the times that they arrive. Parents should not be allowed on school premises, even when dropping off their children.
To prepare classrooms for the returning students, every room where pupils sit must have disinfecting hand gel, soap, paper towels, and surface cleaner. All items students come into regular contact with should be regularly disinfected, and schools should be thoroughly cleaned daily once classes get underway.
Inside, school buildings will likely be organized with one-way walking routes to better keep people spread out from each other.
And at the end of the day, schools should stagger the times students are released. Only one adult should pick up or drop off children and their siblings.