Education sector discusses full-time reopening of schools next week
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Education sector discusses full-time reopening of schools next week

Credit: Belga/B. Fahy

Since Monday 9:00 AM, Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts, the education sector, students and experts have been meeting to discuss if and how the schools can reopen after the Easter holidays next week.

During the previous Consultative Committee at the end of March, the Belgian government implemented a four-week “Easter pause,” aiming to get the coronavirus figures low enough to allow the full-time reopening of all schools from Monday 19 April.

The unions, however, are also worried about the figures, which are “quite worrying” and should be “looked at with the necessary attention” before making decisions.

“We just have to make sure that the measures in education remain linked to the coronavirus figures, but also to the evolution of the number of vaccinated people,” Koen Van Kerkhoven, secretary-general of the ACV’s Christian union’s Education Centre, told VRT.

According to the deputy director of Dutch-language Community Education (GO!) Raymonda Verdyck, however, the best possible outcome is the complete reopening of the schools.

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“We should at least be able to resume the way we have been doing it since the autumn holidays,” she said on Flemish radio, referring to 50% contact education for pupils in the second and third grade of secondary education (aged from 15 to 18).

“That also means that all the other pupils (in different grades) can come to school,” Verdyck said. “Of course, it is true that before the Easter holidays, several extra conditions applied. Schools were not always equipped for that.”

Additionally, the sector is also asking for more stability, as “the many shifts and the constant confrontation with stricter and less strict measures create very difficult situations.”

In an interview with the Belga news agency on Friday, virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht said that he assumed the schools will reopen, but did not know in what way yet.

“There will be a lot of discussion about which measures will have to be taken and whether we will opt for a complete opening or for a form of hybrid education,” he said.

Besides the reopening, the course of the third trimester and the possibilities of organising school trips that last several days will also be discussed.

On Wednesday, the Consultative Committee will meet again, and a final decision on any proposals put forward by Weyts and the education sector today will be made then.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times