Melchior Hendriks, director of the Lorentz School in Hilversum, was just recovering from his first day of school after the summer holidays at nine o’clock in the evening, when Miss Maartje called. She had been called by the parents of one of her students from group 7. The boy was just happy in her class during the day, but developed a fever in the evening, after which his parents did a corona self-test. And yes, positive.
Let’s go again, Hendriks thought: get off the couch, quickly email and text all parents, and switch to home schooling for Miss Maartje’s 26 children.
The rule for primary schools has been inexorable since the start of the new school year: one corona infection in the classroom means that the entire class has to go home. Schools must adhere to this. Students who can show a negative test after five days are allowed to go back to school. But those who do not want to test, or have parents who do not want to cooperate, must remain in quarantine for five days longer.
According to the PO council, so far hundreds of schools have had to send one or more classes home
The rules are so strict because the cabinet wants to prevent the number of infections among unvaccinated school children, who do not have to keep their distance at school, from quickly getting out of hand. Especially after the summer holidays, when students may have become infected in France or Spain.
And so the first children were already at home a day after the summer holidays and the quarantines have since spread like an oil slick across the country. First in the North region, where schools started two weeks ago, a week later in the Central region and since last Monday in the South region.
There are no exact figures (yet), but according to the PO council, the umbrella organization of primary education, so far hundreds of schools have had to send one or more classes home. In practice, this means that thousands of children are back at home at the kitchen table.
“This is no longer workable,” said a spokesperson for the PO council. “It puts everyone to the test.” Not only the teachers, who have to teach online for the umpteenth time since the corona crisis, but also the parents. “Most parents are no longer working at home. Then it is really annoying and difficult to have to arrange something so soon after the holiday, because your child is back at home.”
Also read: The school director is now also crisis manager
The switch to online education was made quickly at the Lorentz School. “Pats, one push of a button and we’re back online. We are used to it,” says Hendriks. But for the teachers and the students it is “boring”. Right now. The first weeks after the summer holidays are not called the ‘golden weeks’ in education for nothing. “This is the phase where the groups are formed again after six weeks of vacation, during which the rules are established. Essential.”
The vaccination rate among teachers is now around ninety percent, according to the PO council. That is also why, according to Hendriks, it is good news that the quarantine rule will be relaxed at the end of September, as the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) will probably advise the cabinet.
It remains a dilemma though. “You want children to be able to go back to school, but public health should not be endangered as a result.”
Until the new relaxation, it is “exciting every day” for Hendriks when the next infection presents itself and he thumbs his fingers blue. “Please, not another messy school year!”
The spokesperson for the PO council: “Schools have just started catching up with the corona backlog. That should not fall into the soup.”
Also read the interview with pediatrician and epidemiologist Patricia Bruijning: ‘Let healthy, young children build natural immunity’