Amsterdam schools fed up with slow Cabinet Covid policy
Many of the 220 primary schools in Amsterdam plan to welcome Group 8 students back to classrooms immediately after the winter vacation ends on January 9, regardless of the Cabinet's pending decision to keep schools closed as part of the ongoing lockdown. The caretaker Cabinet plans to release its final decision about schools on January 3, which schools believe to be far too late, Nieuwsuur reported.
There are over 7,000 students in Group 8, the last grade level before moving on to secondary school. The first month of the year is particularly important for them as they progress towards graduation by taking standardized tests which influences the important recommendations primary schools give about the next stage of a student's education.
"Apart from the fact that they have already been home for two closures, advice must be given, and tests taken which guide that advice," said Eva Naaijkens the director of the Alan Turing School in Amsterdam. When one considers that the students will have to work towards concluding primary school, select their secondary school preferences, and they will soon say goodbye to some classmates, "It's logical to say that the group is vulnerable," Naaijkens concluded.
"Of course there have been many positive signs regarding Omicron," epidemiologist Amrish Baidjoe told Nieuwsuur, in a discussion about the new coronavirus variant which may be more contagious, but less pathogenic. "We really have to wait and see. It is still too early to tell. Let the current infections first decrease a bit more, then there will be space to experiment with new ways to safely open schools and other sectors."
Mariëlle Paul, a Member of Parliament representing Prime Minister Mark Rutte's VVD party, was not enthusiastic, either. "We cannot yet tell if it is wise to open the schools [on January 10]," she said. The healthcare experts advising the government need time to analyze the spread of the virus to provide a constructive opinion about the issue, she said. "We are waiting for that advice, and it would be wise if the Amsterdam schools also waited for that advice."
D66 MP Paul van Meenen was more supportive of the Amsterdam plan, even if it is not a perfect solution. "Of course it's important for these children, in an important year, and physical education is the best," he told Nieuwsuur. "Let's do everything that is safe."
Naaijkens said the Amsterdam plan is an "emergency measure," and would prefer opening schools for all children to attend at least two or three days per week. "Open the school half way so that we serve all students. I don't like to see some children sitting at home and others going to school." She added that the discussion should be held nationally by the Cabinet in a way in which all children can benefit.
"The ad-hoc measures are, simply put, very bad. They do not provide the security and structure we should be mindful of in education."