Friday 22 January 2021

Dutch primary schools re-open their doors as lockdown starts to lift

Back to school in a 1.5 metre classroom. Photo: Jeffrey Groeneweg / Hollandse Hoogte

Dutch primary schools and daycare centres opened their doors again with balloons and welcome messages after an eight-week closure due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Most schools are admitting children every other day, but some have gone for half days, despite the government’s urging to stick to full days to make it easier on children and parents.

Schools were closed on March 16, despite the government’s earlier insistence that they should remain open, after parents and teachers protested.

But officials say there is little risk of transmission via children and Jaap van Dissel, head of the public health institute RIVM, said last week that closing the schools had no influence on the total number of infections. International research would appear to back this up.

According to the Volkskrant, no cluster has yet been found in the Netherlands in which a child was responsible as the spreader. Nor has coronavirus been found in any of the 137 children who had flu symptoms and were tested as part of the nationwide monitoring system at 40 family doctors’ practices.

Nevertheless, the situation is now being closely monitored and teachers have been added to the list of coronavirus test priorities. ‘There are no guarantees,’ epidemiologist and paediatrician Patricia Bruijning told the Volkskrant.

‘It is like the start of a new school year,’ BartJan Commissaris, head teacher at the Polsstok primary school in Amsterdam told the Parool. ‘But of course it is different and we don’t know what sort of condition the children will be in mentally.’


Some parents too are frightened to let their children go back to school, and about 25% of the pupils who should have been at the Polsstok on Monday stayed home, Commissaris said.

Schools have drawn up one-way systems and colour-coding so parents can drop off their children while keeping 1.5 metres apart. ‘It is too complicated for me,’ one mother told ‘I will leave them at the top of the street and let them get on with it.’

Not all children were happy to be back either. ‘It was really boring because none of my friends were there so we could not play our usual games,’ one 10-year-old boy told ‘And anyway, I do more work at home.’

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