Covid-19: High school teachers worried about full classrooms with no masks
Secondary school pupils will return to school in the Noord region from Monday, without having to wear masks and in full classrooms with no social distancing, except with the teacher. Teachers are very worried about this, according to a survey by trade union Leraren in Actie (LiA).
"The survey what we conducted among our 2,200 members is still ongoing, but at the moment the image is that 80 percent of teachers think it is unsafe to fully open the schools again," LiA chairman Peter Althuizen said to NOS. "Our teachers are concerned about their own health, that of the children, and that of people at home."
In June, the government announced that, unlike in many other countries, high school pupils in the Netherlands can go back to school without having to wear masks or maintain social distancing. They just have to keep 1.5 meters away from the teacher. This is against the advice of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which advises using masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
"In Israel, we saw a major outbreak in an open school," ECDC principal researcher Mike Catchpole said to Nieuwsuur. "The classrooms were full and there was a heatwave, so pupils didn't have to put on their face masks. That suggests that without social distancing, an outbreak in a school is more likely."
When announcing that schools can reopen fully, the government said that this decision would be revised "only if the virus spreads further than expected". According to Patricia Bruijning, pediatrician and epidemiologist at UMC Utrecht, that time has now come.
"I think that the current measures may be insufficient in the fall. We are now in a different phase of the epidemic. We are seeing infections rising again and entering a period of the year when we are more concerned about spreading The fact that teenagers can also become infected means that something of social distancing must be maintained," Bruijning said to NOS. The current situation is kind of a license for teens to do what they want, she said. "With measures you can also bring back awareness in this age group. Telling this group that they do not have to keep their distance is a bit of a strange message."
In a press conference last week, Prime Minister Mark Rutte specifically called on young people to adhere to the coronavirus measures, Althuizen of union LiA pointed out. "After that press conference, we thought: How can you point out those rules to young people over the age of 18, while secondary schools have classes with thirty 17- and 18-year-olds," he said to NOS.
The education unions want to know from the government, before schools start reopening next week, whether the previously introduced rules are still enough. "So that education can confidently start the new school year next week," a spokesperson for union AOb said to NOS.