"The basic principle is that schools must remain open safely."

Image: De Balie

'Long-term plan needed for corona and keeping schools open'

A clear plan is needed to keep schools open as much as possible in the event of corona outbreaks. AObdirector Thijs Roovers calls on the new ministers: "Let's draw up a vision together about where we stand and where we want to go with education and corona." Education is tired of the rollercoaster.

“At the last press conference we heard on Friday at seven o'clock in the evening that the entire education had to suddenly close. And then it is apparently expected that the schools have everything arranged by Monday morning. You can't expect that from the people who have been trying to organize education for their students for two years now.”

'Schools have to switch from open to closed in one weekend – or vice versa. That is unworkable'

Thijs Roovers, daily director of the AOb, last night during the (online) meeting 'How do we keep schools open?' at De Balie in Amsterdam. In the Netherlands, we need to work towards a long-term plan on how to keep schools open as much as possible, says Roovers. “The current situation in which the schools, which are already about to collapse, have to completely turn things around again in one weekend, is unacceptable.”

Press conference

“You often hear in the days before the press conference that the 'commitment' is to keep the schools open,” explains Mohammed Guellaï, primary education teacher, at the table in De Balie. “But that's political language. In practice, you still don't know what it will be: open or closed."

Rollercoaster

“It was a real rollercoaster before the Christmas holidays,” says Freddy Weima, chairman of the PO council. “New measures kept coming up, we had to adjust the protocols three times in one week. There is a great need for clarity. If you close the schools, give us time to prepare well.”

Garbage can

And let there be no misunderstanding: keeping the schools open should remain the starting point, according to those present. “As far as I'm concerned, you can throw online education in the trash,” says teacher Guellaï. “Certainly if the supervision at home is difficult to arrange. Standing in front of the class is the real thing.”

“Someone asked me why I didn't turn on the AC. The air con? I'm happy that a window can open'

“Education is a fundamental right,” says Marc Dullaert, founder of KidsRights and former ombudsman for children. “But with the closing of the schools, we have used the children as an ankle bracelet for the parents. From the point of view of the rights of children, that is a very big insufficient.”

Ventilation

Also the lack of good ventilation received a lot of criticism at the table in De Balie. “This problem dates back to before corona,” says Roovers van de AOb. “I once stood in front of a class in group 6 in the summer, when it was above 30 degrees outside. A visitor came by that day and the first thing he asked was why I didn't turn on the AC. The air con? I was happy that a window could open. And that applies to many schools.”

CO2 meters

Make sure schools get CO2 meters, is Roovers' appeal to the Minister of Education. “If necessary, you can deliver them to me and I will deliver them to the schools by bicycle. But make sure it's taken care of."

“The previous minister – Arie Slob – stated that 'every self-respecting school leader already had CO2 meters in the classrooms', says teacher Guellaï. “But many schools still lack those meters. So as a teacher you have to fight individually that you get such a thing in your classroom. And by the way: what if that meter goes to orange or red? What is your policy then?”

“I myself then go to the auditorium with my class,” says Karim Amghar of the Perspective Youth platform. “I myself work with groups of seven to ten students and if we don't take it easy, the CO2 meter will already be orange after half an hour. I can't imagine what that would be like in a classroom with thirty students. That's just outrageous.”

Balanced

If the schools remain open, more matters must be considered in a long-term plan than fighting the virus, says Jet Bussemaker, chairman of the Council for Public Health & Society. “There are many more things involved. Such as increasing educational disadvantage and mental health of pupils and students.”

'Teachers are quite understanding for difficult measures – as long as they know that they are being listened to'

And whatever choices are made in that assessment, says Bussemaker: be open about it. Also tell them if a certain choice has drawbacks. Be transparent, have the discussion. Otherwise you will send parents, teachers and school leaders into the woods.”

Honest

And yes, choices will sometimes have less pleasant sides, teacher Guellaï agrees. “But everyone knows that something has to be done. If you are honest with the parents and the teachers, it is quite understandable. But teachers need to know that they are being listened to.”

“We now have a new team of ministers and that's where we go as AOb would be happy to discuss this with you,” says Roovers. “Let's draw up a vision together about where we stand and where we want to go with education and corona. The basic principle is that we want to keep the schools open as safely as possible.”

De AOb made several guidelines on the subject of ventilation that can help you further.

#Download the guideline for basic education

#Download the guideline for senior secondary vocational education and higher education

#Download the step-by-step plan: 'Bad ventilation at your workplace? You can do this'

#Download the sample letter with explanation for work interruption due to poor ventilation

#Read the article: 'No excuses, work on clean air in schools'

#Handy app from Boink with tips about ventilation. Download for free. 

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