Tuesday evening at half past ten Marieke Laumans sent another class home. The sixth in a row. Wednesday morning number seven followed. Which, she says, means that half of her school is now “flat”. Laumans, director and board member of the Amsterdam School for Upbringing and Education, has had it with corona. And especially with the quarantine rules for students that prescribe that the entire class must be quarantined in the event of three infections. “It’s crazy,” she says over the phone. “Apart from seven classes, the gym teacher, two teaching assistants and two teachers are at home with corona. Impossible.”
The schools are officially open, in practice thousands of students are quarantined at home. It is not clear exactly how many there are. These are daily rates: one student tests positive for corona today, the other can go back to school tomorrow. What is certain is that no school can escape it. All schools have students or entire classes at home, confirms a spokesperson for the VO-raad, the association of schools in secondary education. “The absenteeism is many times higher than average. A terribly difficult situation for schools.”
The OMT will meet on Friday to discuss, among other things, the quarantine rules for students. OMT member and pediatrician Károly Illy will advocate that these be adjusted, he says. “So many classes are now being sent home. That is harmful to children and in my opinion it is not necessary. Children hardly get sick from the Omikron variant.”
Illy does not want to anticipate how the quarantine rules will be relaxed. He does, however, point to other measures: more use of rapid tests, for example, also for younger students. “We will have to come up with something, whereby we observe safety and at the same time ensure that students can go to school as much as possible.”
The quarantine rules have been relaxed since this weekend. For example, anyone who has been boosted more than a week ago no longer needs to be quarantined. A solution for boosted teachers, but it is of no use to unboosted students.
Student organization LAKS receives daily questions, especially from high school students.
“They are at home en masse, but do not receive online education,” says LAKS chairman Iben Maas. “They are very concerned about that: the final exams are already in a few months.” If all goes well, they will continue this year. Final exam candidates do get an extra resit, but are not allowed to ‘cross out’ a subject, as was the case last year. That causes stress, says Maas.
Parents of school-age children are also concerned. Because they are forced to stay at home if their child has to be quarantined, but also because the advice of the GGD is not always clear. “We joke about it in the teachers’ lounge,” says school director Laumans. “If you don’t like the advice of the GGD, just call again and you’ll hear something else.”
In some cases, the GGD advised to completely isolate young children with corona, so that they would have to spend a week alone in their room. Pediatrician Illy is shocked by this, he says. “A child with corona cannot go to school or to the sports club, but of course you don’t lock it up on its own like a kind of Cinderella. That goes way too far.”
A spokesperson for the GGD says “cannot be ruled out” that this strict insulation advice has been given in recent days. “We are currently busy processing the advice from last Friday. This may have caused some confusion.” So a child of primary school age does not have to be alone in isolation? No, says the spokesman. “That is not possible with young children and is not desirable.”
Students in secondary vocational education and at colleges and universities have been allowed to go to campus again this week, but they are also mainly at home behind a screen. Many study programmes, ranging from MBOs to universities, will continue to provide online education in the coming weeks. “We only heard on Friday evening that we could open again on Monday,” says Maurice Limmen, chairman of the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences. “Some courses were able to switch to physical education without any problems, for others there was too little time to change the entire schedule again.”
Also read:Getting a lecture in a room is no longer imaginable
Moreover, it is exam time, says Limmen. “That also makes logistics difficult. The exams are usually at the institutions. It is difficult to say: the exam will not take place, because we now have to give lectures here.”
Limmen expects that almost all students will receive live education again in just under two weeks, when the second block starts. There is a maximum group size of 75. As a result, the larger lectures will still be given online for the time being. Limmen will soon discuss the longer term with the cabinet. “We want to get rid of this flashing light situation. Open, closed, open, closed: we don’t want that anymore. There must be stability and tranquility for our students.”