Primary schools struggling with reopening protocol, conditions
Primary schools have little time to prepare for adhering to the reopening guidelines the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science published on Wednesday, education unions and the council for primary schools PO-Raad said. Several dozen primary schools in Noord-Brabant already announced that they won't be opening next week.
The package of measures and guidelines presented on Wednesday afternoon include that children in the middle and upper years of primary schools have to work in small groups as much as possible, socially distancing with other groups. It is recommended that schools only allow small groups to play outside at the same time. And that kids in groups 7 and 8 wear a face mask if they are not in class and cannot keep a distance from each other.
If a child tests positive for the coronavirus, their entire class must go into quarantine for five days and then get tested. Those who test negative can return to school. Tests are not mandatory, but kids who don't get tested will have to quarantine for a full 10 days.
"The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is guided by haste and not by carefulness in the reopening of schools," teachers' union AOb said. Schools need much more time that a few days to see what the measures mean "and how this can be translated into a protocol," AOb director Jelmer Evers said to NU.nl. He added that the "justified concerns of teachers and support staff are not being taken seriously."
Trade union CNV Onderwijs said that working out the guidelines will be a "big puzzle". The association for school leaders AVS called the protocol "not workable".
The Lowys Porquinstichting, which covers about 30 schools in West Brabant and Tholen, announced that its schools will not open next week. "From the first day of the first wave in March 2020, we indicated that the health and safety of our employees and students are number one," the foundation said in a letter to parents, according to NU.nl. "We see it as our responsibility to only open up our schools if we can do so safely, responsibly and practically. After consideration, we have come to the conclusion that this is not possible at the moment." Distance learning will continue while the schools properly prepare to restart physical education after the Carnaval holiday, the foundation said.
Schools in Amsterdam also feel that the reopening of schools is being rushed, or that Minister Arie Slob for Primary and Secondary Education dropped the ball in preparing for this moment, they said to Het Parool.
Ronald Lorie, director of the Montessori school Het Winterkoninkje in Amsterdam West wonders how his school will be able to deal with the advice to split classes into small groups that keep their distance from one another. "Then it's better to rent the RAI, because that will never-ever work in our school building." He was of course eager for schools to reopen, but can't understand how the Ministry thinks its fine to announce it just a week in advance, and then expect schools to adhere to a book of guidelines released only days before they're supposed to reopen. "We are being thrown under the bus," he said to the Amsterdam newspaper.
Mirjam Heijster, director of Kindercampus Zuidas, said on Twitter that she felt "screwed" by the Ministry's actions. She thinks the rapid reopening of schools is an election stunt. "Why didn't we wait until after the spring break. Then we would have had two weeks to prepare." She is happy that children can go to school again, but does not understand why the guidelines were only released on Wednesday afternoon. "We then have two days to arrange everything. That's not possible, is it?"
Pim Butter of the 5e Montessorischool in Watergraafsmeer is also confused about why the guidelines were released so late. "Didn't Slob already know two weeks ago that the schools would reopen at some point? This is not at all very proactive."