The education sector and Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts reached an agreement on a Covid-19 strategy for the coming months, on Wednesday evening.
The agreement states that children in primary education (aged 6 to 12) will no longer be required to wear a face mask, while it remains an option in secondary education (aged 13 to 18), but only if other sectors of society are also required to wear one.
"The agreement stipulates that the Government will not be able to impose masks on primary school pupils, but individual schools can still decide to require them," Michaël Devoldere, spokesperson for Weyts, clarified to The Brussels Times.
In case the obligation comes into force in secondary school again, teachers will be allowed to take off their masks if there is sufficient ventilation or distance from pupils.
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The agreement's central premise is that schools should stay open as much as possible, even if Covid-19 figures are rising in the rest of society. Only in exceptional cases should local authorities decide to close classes or schools for a short time.
"Classes or schools should only be closed in case of force majeure, for example, if too many teachers are sick," Devoldere added. "We think that everyone now realises what damage the school closures in the first Covid waves have done, and that everyone realises that doing this again can really only be the last resort."
To avoid more closures, the education sector calls on teachers, pupils and parents to stay home if they feel ill. Additionally, the four-level model of the "Covid barometer" (green, yellow, orange and red) will be implemented again, along with room ventilation and CO2 measurements.