Coronavirus: Belgian schools will reopen after extended autumn break
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Coronavirus: Belgian schools will reopen after extended autumn break

Children at a school in Vilvoorde, in the Flemish outskirts of Brussels. © Belga

All schools in Belgium will reopen on 16 November following a decision to extend the autumn break as the second wave of the coronavirus flared up.

Both the Francophone and the Flemish ministries of education have said pupils will go back to the classroom from next Monday.

A federal health official with Sciensano, virologist Yves Van Laethem, said sending pupils back to the classroom was a small risk “worth taking.”

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Only secondary school pupils on the second and third grades will be using distance learning as classroom capacities are halved, while kindergarten, primary and first-year secondary school students would still physically come to class.

“We, and also the virologists recommend to split up classes. The first half will physically attend for one week, the other half will be at home (distance learning). The following week, the other way around,” Sanne Eeckelers, a spokesperson for the Flemish ministry of education, told The Brussels Times.

A spokesperson for Francophone Education Minister Caroline Désir confirmed that “schools were preparing to return to on-site teaching,” La Libre reports.

As the second wave flared up and schools reported being hard-hit by a wave of quarantines or confirmed infections among teaching staff, Désir announced that the upcoming autumn break would be extended until 15 November.

The decision to extend the break, which was originally set to last between 2 and 11 November, was ultimately also taken by Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts.

“Surely, the return to school after the break represents an additional risk, because we are putting back together people who theoretically did not see each other for two weeks,” Van Laethem told La Dernière Heure.

“It is a small risk, certainly not non-existent, but it is a risk worth taking,” he added, citing concerns over pupils who are already lagging behind after the lockdown imposed during the first wave in the spring.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times