It’s back to school for kindergartners, all primary pupils and more secondary pupils

Flemish kindergartners return to school on 2 June.  All Flemish primary schools may resume lessons for all years starting 8 June. Second and fourth years return to Flemish secondary schools too on 2 June. In future pupils will no longer have to observe a 1.5m social distance.  These are the most important planks of plans approved by representatives of the federal and devolved governments on Wednesday.  The Group of Experts preparing the Exit Strategy was consulted.

Until now schools were only able to teach first, second and sixth years of primary (partially) and sixth and seventh years of secondary.

Kindergartners and other pupils will not have to wear a mouth and nose covering. Teachers will have to wear a covering if they move among pupils and a safe distance can’t be observed.

Primary schools may start with a trial day on Friday 5 June.  Classes won’t have to be split up even if there are more than 20 pupils in a class.  The class becomes a ‘class bubble’ and no contact with other class bubbles is permitted, not even at playtime.

Pupils don’t have to observe social distancing but teachers do in their contact with pupils.

The decision means that Flemish education minister Weyts’s plans have largely been adopted. Schools have full autonomy when it comes to the resumption of lessons.  They may decide to stick to social distancing for all, split up classes and teach half days.

In secondary schools, until now only the sixth and seventh years can be taught two days a week.  Second and fourth years will now adopt the same system starting 2 June.  First, third and fifth years will be able to return for one or a few days in June to conclude their year. In secondary schools social distancing will apply to all.  Classes are limited to bubbles of 14 pupils.  Wearing mouth and nose coverings is highly recommended for pupils and teachers.  Until now this was mandatory.

The consultative committee that took the restart decision points to favourable trends in corona figures as well as new international scientific insights. Belgian experts say international research indicates that children seem to suffer less from COVID-19 and seem less likely to pass it on.