Code yellow: how Belgian universities will start the school year
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Code yellow: how Belgian universities will start the school year

Credit: Belga

Just like primary school and high school, universities and colleges in Belgium will start the new school year in “code yellow,” but what does that mean?

The coronavirus epidemic saw the widespread closure of schools earlier in the year, but the experts of the group advising on the deconfinement (GEES) have now evaluated the risk of opening up fully to be limited for all pupils and students.

For universities and colleges, this means that maximum use will be made for classes on campus.

However, unlike primary schools and high schools, the school year for higher education starts in the last part of September, and everything will depend on the coronavirus figures.

“This is good news for our campus life, for the universities and for the students,” Luc Sels, rector of the KULeuven, told VRT. “We are going to have a high occupancy rate of our classrooms and will be able to organise a lot on campus.”

To what extent the different schools will follow the rules, and they will be dealt with in practice, is still being discussed. “So far, we are all on the same wavelength: the maximum possible on campus, online lessons if possible and when necessary,” Sels said.

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In auditoriums at universities, one in two seats can be taken if everyone wears a face mask. If students do not wear a mask, one in five places can be occupied. For classes in smaller rooms, the same rules apply.

For practical exercises and labs, all places in the classroom may be occupied if everyone wears a mouth mask.

In practice, it is likely that students can alternately go to campus and attend classes at home.

For university colleges, the situation is a little different. There are no specific guidelines for the classrooms, although it is clear that not everyone will be able to take lessons on campus at the same time.

Circulation to and from the campus must be reduced by at least 25%, meaning that a mass of students cannot be moving at the same time. In practice, this also means that there will be a combination of lessons on campus and distance learning online.

On campus, students will have to wear a facemask if they cannot keep a 1.5 metres distance.

As with primary and secondary education, the local governments will be able to decide to bring campuses to code orange if there are remarkably more infections at that location.

At that time, maximum use will be made of distance education.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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