Kindergartens can reopen as from 2 June; all pupils can return to primary school, the education sector advises

The Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts (N-VA) and various social partners from the education department have struck a deal about a complete reopening of all kindergartens as from 2 June. All pupils should be able to return to primary school, and more pupils would also be allowed in secondary schools, as long as safety standards can be met, the advice goes. The National Security Council is poised to follow this advice soon, experts expect. 

This morning, before the marathon talks, Ben Weyts said "I want to make a final decision for the rest of the school year soon." It was clear in which direction the sector was working: "We should offer good prospects to as many children as possible. In other words: reopen as many schools as possible. I have a concrete proposal on the table, we will see where we land", the minister told reporters before meeting other partners in the education sector. 

Not full-time

The advice issued is to have all toddlers return to the kindergartens, and to let all pupils in primary school come back as from Tuesday 2 June, in order to have them back at school for at least a number of weeks before the end of the school term.

For elementary schools, this would not be full-time though, due to corona social-distancing and basic hygiene measures (which would apply to a lesser extent in kindergartens). There are talks of "at least half-time with a maximum of four days a week." All this can only happen "on the condition that safety measures can be respected", the advice continues. Each school will have to see what is possible.

As for secondary education, almost all pupils could return as from 2 June as well, but with more restrictions and a smaller time frame each week. Each school will have to determine what is feasible. Pupils in the final year had already been allowed to return to their desks, as had pupils in the seventh year of vocational training.  

Advice bound to be followed

The National Security Council will now have to give its go-ahead, but Mr Weyts has the support of 16,000 doctors, who are asking to let all children under 12 years of age return to school, without social distancing measures. Studies show that the confinement measures are having a big impact on young children. Is is expected that the Security Council will follow the advice, since this has been worked out together with virologists and health specialists. 

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