It’s back to school for Flemish pupils!

It’s the first day back at school for 1.2 million Flemish schoolchildren.  In most classes face coverings are no longer required, but the long shadow cast by coronavirus has still not completely disappeared.

For the third schoolyear in a row schools are having to cope with the threat of coronavirus, but in many places, schools are attempting to return to the old normal.

Full-time classroom teaching returns for all primary and secondary schools.  Distance learning disappears. Teachers are pleased and point to the heavy burden put on pupils due to distance learning.  Children too are happy as they look forward to seeing more of their friends in person.

Quarantine remains a possibility and that could mean the return of distance learning for some pupils, even for entire classes!

Bruges Centre Secondary School has equipped all classes with cameras and all pupils have a laptop.  In the event of quarantine there’s no danger they will be left behind.

Face coverings are usually seen as a drag and disappear entirely for pupils in primary.  Primary teachers may remove their face covering to teach as long as they are seated at a desk or standing at the board.  Coverings are required when they circulate in the classroom.

It's the same story in secondary: pupils needn’t don a covering while they are seated. Coverings are required when pupils circulate and can’t observe physical distancing. Masks are needed in corridors, but not on playgrounds as long as intense physical contacts are avoided. Schools can set stricter rules if they wish.

Pupils and teachers wishing to don a covering may do so. 

Good ventilation and hand hygiene are required both in primary and secondary. Pupils should have a fixed place and in secondary also a fixed classroom instead of formerly the teacher.

Pupils may enjoy meals in the school canteen, but should sick to their own class groups and a fixed place.

School excursions are once again possible.  Internships too can be organised by secondary schools.

In the event of corona cases targeted action is planned.  The aim is to limit disruption as much as possible. One case at kindergarten or primary school and the other pupils are viewed as low-risk contacts. Other pupils may be informed and e.g. urged not to visit grandparents. In secondary schools contact tracing kicks in with the aim of identifying high risk contacts, who will have to quarantine and get tested. Whole classes may be quarantined if several pupils or a teacher test positive. 

Stricter rules apply in Flemish schools in Brussels where the restrictions valid at the end of last schoolyear are applied.  From the fifth year of primary face coverings are obligatory.  Pupils and teachers must physically distance as much as possible and class groups should be separated.   

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