In the middle of a second wave and tightened measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus schools continue to operate under safety precautions.
On national level, Belgium announced a number of new restrictions on Friday, including for higher education. The Brussels regional government followed on Saturday with more restrictions, closed down cultural venues and sporting facilities, and made the wearing of a mask compulsory at all times in the region.
Primary and secondary schools continue as they did before the new restrictions though the number of new cases and students and teachers placed under quarantine in the week 12 – 18 October preceding the new measures increased, resulting in the shut down of some schools. As a precaution, schools in Belgium have decided to prolong the Autumn holiday starting next week until 11 November.
“It’s the right decision to extend the vacations”, virologist Marc Van Ranst said in an interview. “Schools can reset themselves this way. It will slow down the spread of the virus because 12 days is about twice the incubation time”. After the Autumn break, they aim to stay open until the Christmas break.
Parents are worried but also thankful that schools continue to be open as much as possible during the crisis. The Family Association at the International School of Brussels (ISB) distributed last week more than 400 letters of thanks from its members to express their appreciation for the work the school is doing to enable students to continue their schooling on the campus in Watermael-Boitsfort.
ISB is an English-language international school that provides an international education to over 1400 students aged 3 – 18 from over 70 countries. According to the letter, which has been seen by The Brussels Times, the school has found “a way to bring our children back to campus in the safest way possible”.
“Thank you for: Continuing education for all students, all ages. Creating bubbles that minimize exposure for our students. This takes an immense amount of coordination and dedication to maintain. You coach them to follow Covid-19 guidelines and you remind us as parents to be vigilant.” The school has also found safe ways for the students to continue to play sports.
“Life is not only very different for our students this year, but also for their teachers and all the supporting teams at the school. We wanted to acknowledge all the additional efforts that have gone into making the return to campus a reality, and convey our immense gratitude,” commented Madelon van der Rest, President of the Family Association.
“What an incredible letter for my colleagues and I to receive. Since the beginning of the new school year, we have made every effort to ensure our school stays open for learning, while at the same time safeguarding our community,” said James MacDonald, ISB Director. “The team is therefore very touched by this meaningful gesture at this challenging time.”
The Brussels Times