Teachers against hybrid learning as Cabinet weighs "tough" decision to close schools early
Caretaker Education Minister Arie Slob said he was faced with a set of "very tough" decisions prior to the Cabinet meeting about coronavirus on Tuesday. During these consultations, the Cabinet will decide whether primary schools will leave for the winter break one week early. The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) has been pushing for this for about a month.
Last week, Slob wrote that it was "the government's commitment" to keep schools open as planned leading up to the break. Schools in the Netherlands are scheduled to start the vacation period at the end of the day on December 24. One fear is that primary school children could infect family members soon afterwards during Christmas visits. If the holiday starts earlier, school-age children have less contact with each other a week before Christmas and the risk of infection is smaller.
But Slob said ministers must now "look again at what is necessary." This has to do with the emergence of the more contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus, and the new OMT advice presented to the government. It is another rather difficult decision, Slob emphasized.
Sources close to the Cabinet said on Monday that the Christmas break will likely be brought forward by one week after all. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge also hinted that the Cabinet is strongly considering the decision. He said the Cabinet should "seriously weigh" the OMT's recommendation.
If primary schools close a week before the start of the Christmas holidays, they should not be obliged to offer hybrid education, according to education workers union AOb. Distance learning can no longer be organized in such a short period of time, the union said.
The "least bad solution" is for schools to be obligated to provide emergency care for the children whose parents are in professions considered crucial to society, the AOb added. "The practice of the past eighteen months shows that hybrid education is the worst of both worlds when some children receive emergency care in the classroom, and simultaneously the rest of the students are online," said AOb director Thijs Roovers. Distance learning is also tough on teachers, children and parents, he stated.
The lack of clarity is annoying for everyone, according to the AOb. "You can't expect teachers, parents and students to switch to another education format within three days."
The final decision is expected to be announced by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and De Jonge during a press conference on Tuesday evening.
Reporting by ANP.