In a joint statement issued on 24 April, the educational branch of the OGBL, SEW and student association UNEL released a list of suggested changes to the education ministry’s de-confinement strategy.
Under plans announced on 16 April, education minister Claude Meisch (DP) announced final year students would return from 4 May, while the rest of secondary would return on 11 May, when classes would be split in two, so half would stay at home for a week and the other half would attend lessons. This, it was thought, would help limit contact and thus lower the potential risk of spreading coronavirus. Primary schools would, meanwhile, follow with a similar half-class attendance from 25 May.
The unions made the following recommendations:
- Final year course attendance be made optional to avoid contamination;
- push back the reopening of schools to other year groups, so that the remaining years of secondary school resume 18 May, and not 11 May as proposed. This would allow time for schools to troubleshoot any issues that may occur and limit disruptions for final-year students;
- teachers should not be held responsible for any health problems that occur as a result of schools reopening;
- educational support and structures must be provided for the children of teaching staff, for instance crèches, which would not reopen until 25 May;
- learners experiencing difficulties should be allowed to attend school every day and not one week on, one week off;
- all lessons should be made available for all learners.
The unions also called for further clarification regarding the evaluation of students’ performance and dispensations for vulnerable learners.
Speaking on Saturday, Meisch said that pupils and teachers should take advantage of optional nationwide coronavirus screening, available from 27 April. He strongly encouraged final year students at secondary and in vocational training as well as their teachers to be tested before resuming classes on 4 May, according to our colleagues at Paperjam. The French-language publication cited Meisch as saying that if schools were not safe, they would not reopen.
As part of the ministry’s strategy, the wearing of masks by learners will be compulsory on the way to and from school (on public transport) but not within the classrooms unless requested by a teacher. Learners will be expected to use hand disinfectant on an hourly basis and all sports classes will be cancelled.
The reopening comes as the curve of new infections begins to flatten. According to Delano's calculation, there was on average 27.5 new infections per day over the past six days. Italy, which is among the worst hit countries in Europe, will not reopen schools until September. According to Reuters, the number of daily deaths fell for the third consecutive day on Sunday, from 415 to 260. The number of new infections there was the lowest since 20 April, at 2,324.