Schools in Belgium will have to leave classroom doors and windows wide open to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections, according to new guidelines issued just ahead of the return to school next week.
Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts said that new and “concrete” suggestions and measures would be issued to schools in order to improve safety as students file back into the classroom from next Tuesday.
“It is now clear that it is not enough to ventilate classroom just a few times a day,” Weyts said in an online statement. “Classroom doors and windows, for example, must be wide open.”
“Classrooms should no longer be hermetically sealed when students are present,” he said, adding: “At the very least, classroom doors should be left ajar.”
The update to the guidelines, Weyts said, is a result of increased knowledge on the risks of infection through the air and are set to reduce risk when coupled with hand hygiene and social distancing measures.
“We are learning more and more. At first, there was a lot of attention for washing hands and [keeping] a healthy distance, then we realised the importance of face masks and, now, insights on ventilation grew,” Weyts said.
The new guidelines will also recommend schools equip classrooms with CO2-metres which would help staff keep track of whether a room is being appropriately ventilated.
Weyts said that schools will receive support and information regarding the purchase of a CO2 metre as well as other equipment to better control and monitor their environments when school starts back up on 1 September.
The return to school in Belgium was approved last week by the National Security Council (NSC) in an effort to balance out coronavirus concerns with children’s education.
Last week, the return to school was approved by federal officials seeking to balance coronavirus risk with concerns over children’s education.
Keeping with a previous decision by regional ministers, responsible for education in Belgium, the NSC approved the return to school under a yellow risk scenario, the second-lowest in a four-level colour-coded risk system, under which kids are set to attend in-person lessons five days a week.