Schools, daycares closed from today; Cabinet will see if they can reopen sooner than Jan. 18
Schools and childcare centers in the Netherlands are closed from today, as part of a hard lockdown implemented to try and curb the spread of the coroanvirus in the country. At the insistence of the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, Prime Minister Mark Rutte "very hesitantly" agreed to see in early January whether the schools can reopen before lockdown is set to end on January 18.
From today all pupils and students, from primary school to university, will have virtual lessons again. Many educational institutions decided to start the Christmas holidays early and use the last days of this term to prepare for distance learning next year, according to RTL Nieuws. Vulnerable children and children whose parents have vital professions can still go to school.
The government decided to close schools and childcare centers to reduce the number of contacts parents and teachers have when kids are being dropped off or picked up. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge also said that this will force parents to work from home.
That did not go down well with the Tweede Kamer. "That feels a bit like children are their parents' living ankle monitor," D66 leader Rob Jetten said in a parliamentary debate on Tuesday. The D66 and PvdA submitted a proposal to check in the first weeks of January whether schools can reopen sooner, NOS reports. ChristenUnie and PvdD were also unhappy with the long closure. GroenLinks wanted schools to remain open through the lockdown.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte reluctantly agreed to see if this was possible. He said that he didn't want to give a "hard no", but also didn't want to raise false hope. Before the government can decide to relax lockdown measures, the effects of the coming festive season on the number of infections must first be clear. And to be able to open schools on January 11, you have to make that decision on January 3, he said. "And then we still know far too little."
A number of experts spoke out against the decision to close schools in newspaper Trouw on Wednesday, especially the part where De Jonge said it was to force parents to work from home. "Children, and certainly the vulnerable among them, then pay the price for adults who refuse to work at home," Amsterdam sociologist of education Thijs Bol said. "The inequality between children will only increase in the second lockdown."