Coronavirus: Flemish secondary school first to activate code orange
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    Coronavirus: Flemish secondary school first to activate code orange

    © LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ - BELGA

    A school in the Flemish municipality of Machelen has become the first in Belgium to activate the orange-code scenario and to return to distance learning to reduce coronavirus risks.

    The school’s move into a higher risk scenario means students and teachers partially return to the distance learning modalities put in place throughout the lockdown.

    According to a risk management roadmap for the return to school, code orange in a secondary school means that classes will be halved and that each half group will come to class every other week.

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    In GISO, a technical secondary school of some 200 students, sub-headmaster Hugo Gavin said that the classes were already sufficiently small to make the transition into orange easier.

    “Classes will function with a maximum of 15 students,” Gavin said in a phone interview. “They will be given a combination of tasks, some of which they will do at home and others in the classroom.”

    The school, the first in the country to activate code orange, according to reports by Le Soir, said on social media that they were banking on “common sense” to navigate the changes, in place since last week.

    No positive Covid-19 cases have been detected among school staff or students, Gavin said, explaining that code orange was activated based on the spread of the virus in Machelen overall.

    The Flemish municipality, located in the periphery of Brussels, was one of 26 in Belgium pinned as at-risk of having to move to code orange in a report by Sciensano, which “highly recommended” local authorities to trigger a local crisis cell to assess the situation in schools.

    The passage to orange is meant to remain in place for four weeks but Gavin said that school staff and local authorities would be likely to reassess the situation two weeks in.

    In Brussels, all 19 municipalities were among the 26 flagged by Sciensano in their report, leading the 19 mayors to agree last week that any potential move to a higher risk scenario will be discussed and potentially coordinated throughout the Brussels region.

    A spokesperson for Caroline Désir, the education minister for Francophone schools in Brussels and Wallonia, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times