Schools' Covid facilities full while closure extensions loom
With increasing indications that the government may extend the current lockdown past January 19 and keep schools closed, the emergency care facilities at schools and daycare centers are already overflowing. Some schools even have to refuse children, because there is simply no room, NOS reported after speaking with those involved.
Emergency care facilities at schools during the lockdown are meant for vulnerable children, who for example have a learning disability or a difficult situation at home, and children whose parents have crucial professions. During the first lockdown in the spring of last year, limited use was made of these facilities. But parents are relying on them much more now.
Ad Veen, spokesperson for primary schools' organization PO-Raad, estimates that many schools are currently accommodating 25 to 40 percent of their pupils in emergency care. "The expectations surrounding emergency care are currently unrealistic," he said to NOS. The Childcare Industry Association and the general association of school leaders AVS gave the broadcaster similar figures.
The AVS is getting signals from schools that are reaching their limits due to increased demand for emergency care. The association therefore called on parents to only use emergency care when there is really no other option. "The schools may have enough room in terms of space, but you also need the staff. There is often a shortage of that. Now PE teachers, teaching assistants and trainees are helping out," spokesperson Rob van Ooijen said to NOS.
Part of the problem is that parents have a wrong image of what a day in the emergency care at school entails, those involved said to the broadcaster. It is not so that kids at emergency care get lessons from teachers there. They also have to follow the online lessons. The only difference is that the laptop is at their school desk and not at home.
It's not only schools that are struggling, parents are also reaching their limits, Marjet Winsemuis of the Foundation for Working Parents said to the broadcaster. "My mailbox exploded when the news that the lockdown may be extended came out: so many parents can't any more," she said. In the spring, parents were hesitant to use the emergency care facilities. "Now they say: hello, I have the right to childcare. I have a crucial profession. It's just not possible, working with a toddler on your lap."
"Learning delays are harrowing, but we are now more concerned about the mental state of the parents themselves and its effect on children," Winsemuis said. "Tensions are really rising in people's homes."
Winsemuis thinks that employers need to step up here. Many parents feel pressure to go into the office, she said. "More space must be created to combine work and childcare. Otherwise, all your employees with children will soon have a burnout and you will be in an even worse situation. Have a little more empathy as an employer."