Some 55,000 pupils haven't returned to school; Schools satisfied with first days back

Amsterdam primary school reopens as Netherlands eases out of its coronavirus lockdown, 11 May 2020
Amsterdam primary school reopens as Netherlands eases out of its coronavirus lockdown, 11 May 2020NL TimesNL Times

Around 55 thousand pupils haven't returned to class since primary schools opened on Monday, according to a survey conducted by the general association of school leaders AVS among over 1,100 school directors. Their parents keep them home out of concern that they will be infected by the coronavirus. Despite these absences, almost all school leaders are happy with how the transition from home schooling to back to class went, NOS reports.

Only 10 percent of schools had full attendance. The other 90 percent had one or more pupils not come in. "Often it was 1 or 2 percent of the pupils, but in 8 percent of schools, more than 10 percent of pupils are not yet at school," AVS chairperson Petra van Haren said to the broadcaster. According to her, many schools are concerned about still offering these kids distance learning while also dealing with a class full of pupils. 

Some teachers also did not return to school yet. Over half of primary schools didn't start with their full staff. On average, 2 percent of teachers stayed at home, largely because they themselves or a family member are vulnerable to the coronavirus. The vast majority of teachers who stayed at home were deployed to teach pupils who also stayed at home. Only 5 percent of schools did not have enough teachers to bring all classes to school.

97 percent of school leaders told AVS that the first days back at school went well. 21 percent even called them great. "There was a lot of joy in seeing the children again," Van Haren said to NOS. "We are proud of all the school leaders who organized this together with their team and are back to normal in this unusual time." 92 percent of school leaders said that hygiene measures were adhered to as desired. About 21 percent of schools use masks or gloves - teachers in special education often have physical care duties, and teachers in all types of education feel safer with protective gear when the clean up or have to tend to a minor injury.

According to the school leaders, the agreements made between parents and schools about how to drop off and pick up pupils were adhered to in most schools. The same applies to out-of-school care, with which 95 percent of schools have clear agreements. 

While the school leaders are extremely satisfied, parents did run into some practical problems. A helpline established by the Foundation for Working Parents received some 400 complaints. Complaints involved things like schools teaching half days, resulting in siblings not going to school at the same time. There were complaints about the connection between schools and out-of-school care. The helpline also received some complaints from parents in crucial professions, whose kids were refused by emergency care centers because the schools are now open again.