Dutch gov't: Schools can make face masks mandatory but no legal obligation
The Dutch government confirmed a report from earlier on Thursday that students and faculty in secondary schools and secondary special education schools should take the "urgent" advice to wear masks when outside of the classroom. The schools can decide individually whether the masks will be made mandatory, the Cabinet said in a statement.
In order to do so, the schools are required by law to get the mask rule placed in their list of bylaws which students have to follow, often requiring the approval of students chosen to participate on a parent-student council. Schools will also need to get a mask obligation approved for placement in its employment terms.
Masks are strongly recommended in areas where 1.5 meters between students and teachers cannot be guaranteed, like in hallways, assembly rooms, and cafeterias. Masks can be removed where students remain seated, such as in classrooms, the government said. The policy takes effect on Monday.
The mask advice was also recommended for vocational subjects and practical experience courses where a safe distance cannot be maintained, "as long as this does not endanger the safety of the lessons (for example, during welding)," the government said.
Situations where students with disabilities are highly impacted will be exempt from the advice. The government noted that some students are highly dependent on close proximity and facial expressions, making the mask advice unrealistic for them. Decisions on how to handle these cases also rest with school management.
"Wearing masks is an emphatic addition to the basic rules and not a substitute for them. It is therefore important to keep your distance, to disinfect your hands, to cough into the elbow and to stay at home in case of symptoms," the government said.
There was no change announced regarding a face mask policy in primary schools, primary special education schools, higher education or vocational institutes. For the youngest students, the Cabinet said the risk of infection among primary school-aged children "is considerably lower." Older students were still expected to maintain social distancing rules, and the education institutions can also adapt policies as needed.
"A security region can also choose, in consultation with a college or university, to issue urgent advice about wearing face masks," the government said.