In terms of the number of infections, our country is glowing red hot on the European map, but education remains color-coded yellow. This is what Flemish Minister of Education Ben Weyts (N-VA) said on Monday morning on Radio 1. That is the safest and the best pedagogically, it sounded. The statements of the minister collide with incomprehension among opposition parties SP.A and Groen.
Flemish Minister of Education Ben Weyts (N-VA) is not prepared to change the color of education. “We fought very hard to get those schools open again for all children and I just want to keep them open,” he said on Radio 1 Monday morning. “That is the safest for everyone.”
According to Weyts, evaluations show that the schools are doing an excellent job, the plans work and that action is taken decisively. ‘The number of infections, especially if you compare it with the rest of society, is really good at schools. There are indeed schools where classes are quarantined, but that is a sign that the system is working. There are about ten schools out of a total of 4,000 schools. ‘
Code orange would mean that pupils from the third high school and older follow lessons at home week after week. ‘It is an illusion that these students are just sitting at home, certainly in a metropolitan context’, argued Weyts. ‘It is better to keep them in a controlled environment. That is the safest for everyone. Pedagogically, it is also best to let the children and young people go to school. ‘
Weyts is also Minister of Sports. Whether additional measures will be taken there will be discussed today. Indoor sports and locker rooms are considered potential sources of contamination. The most important criterion is still: is there a controlled environment? Then you realize that the security measures are being followed more closely. ‘
‘In the trash can’
Opposition parties Groen and SP.A are not satisfied with Weyts’ choice to stick to the yellow code in education. “The country is turning red and the schools remain on code yellow, as if nothing is wrong,” says Green Member of Parliament Elisabeth Meuleman. ‘Minister Weyts must be realistic: there are many contacts in and around schools that can spread corona. We have to curb corona by avoiding peak times. ‘
According to Groen’s education specialist, extra measures are needed. In addition to sliding hours, alternating teaching days between morning and afternoon, Meuleman also suggests an early or extended autumn holiday in order to ‘minimize the number of infections inside the schools’.
SP.A party leader Hannelore Goeman also does not understand why Weyts keeps the schools yellow in code. ‘Why were scripts and color codes drawn up if the minister then throws them in the garbage with his own hands? Don’t hold to your own right, recognize the reality and evaluate the interpretation of the codes, so that older pupils can also continue to go to school safely as much as possible. ‘
CD&V still maintains code yellow as a starting point, but believes that it should be possible to switch to code orange at a local level if necessary. ‘We are convinced that it is best to estimate and judge at a local level which measures are needed’, it sounds. According to CD&V, the local differences in the incidence rate are too great to impose a single color code for the whole of Flanders. ‘We also believe that many other measures can be imposed to reduce our social contacts before we touch the schools’, it continues.
“This is precisely the system today: the starting point is code yellow, but locally a switch to code orange is possible,” the Weyts cabinet responds. ‘If the local crisis cell establishes that education in the municipality has become or threatens to become a hotbed, it can propose to switch to code orange locally. Until now, we have hardly received any such requests, because the local crisis cells estimate that the schools are not breeding grounds. ‘