For some an extended krokusvakantie in Belgium – change in face mask regulations in primary schools

There will be no general obligation to wear masks in primary education in Belgium. For secondary education, a cooling-off week with distance learning is planned in the week preceding the krokusvakantie. For students, Vlaams minister van Onderwijs Ben Weyts, together with virologists and the Vlaamse Vereniging van Studenten (VVS), is working out guidelines for a "kotbubbel". These are the latest proposals from the education partners in the fight against corona.

The education partners committed themselves at the beginning of January to provide clarity on a possible extension of the krokusvakantie no later than this week. This gives schools and parents time to make any necessary preparations.

Cooling-off week with distance learning for secondary schools

Vlaams minister van Onderwijs Ben Weyts has now, after consulting with virologists and in consultation with the broad field of education, expressed his opinion on the krokusvakantie and face masks in primary education. The broad Flemish educational field now proposes to the Overlegcomité/Comité de concertation that only in ordinary secondary education, as a cooling-off period in the fight against the virus, a week of collective distance education be introduced as of Monday 8 February.

Primary school pupils and pre-school children will continue to attend school during this week just before the spring holidays, as will vulnerable pupils in the BuSO OV1 and OV2 secondary schools. For them, nothing changes. Distance learning is much more difficult to organise for infants, children and the most vulnerable pupils. Moreover, if the primary schools were to be closed collectively, extracurricular education would again have to be provided, at least for the children of parents with an essential profession. That would mean mixing different bubbles from different schools, which is exactly what virologists advise against.

No compulsory face mask in primary school

There will be no general obligation to wear face masks in primary schools. Only in case of an infection or quarantine of someone in the same grade, pupils of the fifth and sixth grade and their teachers will, as a precaution, wear a face mask at school for a period of 14 days. The Centrum voor leerlingenbegeleiding – CLB can also advise a face mask for pupils of the fifth and sixth year in other cases. This measure takes effect from Monday 25 January.

Rules tailored to students

For the students, Weyts is going to work out guidelines with virologists and the VVS for a 'kotbubbel'. After all, the current Covid-19 regulations are strongly grafted onto the classic family situation: little consideration is given to, for example, students living in dormitories or teenagers at boarding school. The Expertengroep Psychologie en Corona advised to offer an alternative bubble to young people. Weyts now wants to put that advice into practice.

"Corona hits our students hard. We have to take the problem of social isolation, loneliness and mental health seriously,"

says Weyts.

"We now want to work out rules tailored to students. This will give them a positive perspective."

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