After two months at home some Flemish children return to school

Friday 15 May is a big day for many thousands of schoolchildren across Flanders. They are returning to school for the first time since 13 March. However, by no means all pupils at schools in Flanders and Dutch-medium schools in Brussels are returning to the classroom today. At the very most only children in the first, second and final years of primary school and the final year of second school are returning for what is a trial day ahead of the limited reopening of schools across Belgium on Monday. 

Limitations of space and the number of staff available have meant that many primary schools are starting off by opening classes to just one or two year groups rather than all three year groups permitted in the lockdown exit strategy guidelines. Furthermore, children will often only be returning to the classroom for two days or four half days a week with the rest of their classes being taught using online preteaching methods or consisting of homework tasks set by their teachers.

The constraints imposed by having to ensure social distancing is maintained wherever possible and that extreamly high-levels of hygiene are maintained throughout have meant that school Heads and their staff have been racking their brains over the past few weeks. Classes have been split to ensure no more than 14 pupils are taught in the same classroom, timetables have been modified to ensure that break times are staggered and extra attention has been paid to ensure hygiene, both of the school buildings and of the pupils and staff will be of the highest standard.

Teachers and secondary school pupils will be obliged to wear mouth masks. Primary school children will not have to wear mouth masks at school. In addition to some pupils returning to the classroom, schools will also still have to provide pre-teaching for pupils that are still at home and child care for working parents that have no other childcare options.

The reopening of schools of Friday is limited only to schools (both state, local authority run and Catholic) that are funded by the Flemish Community. Francophone and German-medium schools in the East of Liège Province won’t partially reopen until Monday 18 May. The reopening is the first step towards a returning to school for all of our youngsters. However, it is still far from certain when all children will be able to return to the classroom.