Dutch government announces additional measures for reopening schools
Government guidelines for reopening Dutch primary schools
The guidelines were drawn up by the Ministry of Education together with a representative group of teachers, school heads, and school board members:
- Schools will stagger pick up and drop off times to limit contact between students and parents.
- Parents with children in Groep 1 to 6 (aged 4 to 10) are asked to stay outside of the school building at pick up and drop off, and to wear a mask; children in Groep 7 and 8 (aged 10 to 12) are asked to come to school alone as much as possible.
- For Groep 4 to 6 (aged 7 to 10), staff are advised to separate classes into bubbles of five children who can then work closely together and keep distance from other bubbles; children in Groep 7 and 8 are asked to work in pairs or in smaller groups.
- Playtimes will also be staggered so only one class goes on break at a time to limit contact between the children.
- Staff working with Groep 7 and 8 are permitted to wear a mask if should want to do so, but it is not mandatory; children in Groep 7 and 8 are asked to wear a mask when outside of the classroom.
- Schools are asked to implement one-way systems in corridors and around the building where possible.
- Teachers and students who come into contact with someone infected with coronavirus must quarantine for five days, they can then either chose to be tested on the fifth day in order to return to school or can remain in quarantine for a further five days.
- From February 8, rapid tests will be available for staff members who are suffering symptoms and for teachers who have been in contact with someone infected with coronavirus; in addition to this, teachers will continue to have priority for PCR tests.
Arie Slob, Minister for Education, said it was important that staff felt safe returning to work: “The risks are limited. At the same time, I also understand that there are teachers who are concerned about their health. That is why we take extra measures to prevent spreading.” He acknowledged the extra effort that would be required from staff in order to implement these measures, saying “We will support them in this as much as possible.”
Schools across the country worried about the safety of staff
While many may be glad to hear that many children will be able to return to school, others remained concerned about the safety of staff and students and the impact reopening could have on the spread of COVID-19.
As many as 31 schools in Brabant have decided not to open next week as they say it is not yet clear how many employees and students would be put at risk. In a letter to parents, the schools say they feel they cannot reopen safely or responsibly due to the spread of various variants of coronavirus in the Netherlands. A number of parents have spoken out against the decision, saying their children were looking forward to returning to school.
Primary schools in Amsterdam have also expressed their anger at the last-minute advice issued by the government: “We're being thrown in front of the bus,” Ronald Lorié, director of the Montessori school Het Winterkoninkje in Amsterdam West, told Het Parool. He says classrooms in the city are too small to accommodate smaller workgroups. School boards in Groningen are also worried about the feasibility of the new government guidelines.