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Coronavirus: Belgium sets out plans for return to school in September

16:55 24/06/2020

Education ministers from Belgium's three language communities have set out their plans for how children will return to school in September.

Flemish education minister Ben Weyts said the guiding principle was: "All schools open, for all year groups, for all children."

He added: "Coronavirus will remain a reality in the next school year. Schools, pupils and parents have a right to a clear framework."

The plan is based on four colour-coded levels, based on the evolution of the virus over time. In a "green" scenario, where a vaccine is available and/or widespread immunity has been acquired, schools will operate as they did before the outbreak.

"Yellow" - a low risk - would mean the virus is still present, but with a relatively low number of new infections. The assumption is that the return to school in September will be in a "yellow" period.

"Orange" means a systematic spreading of the virus and "red" a major, widespread outbreak.

Francophone education minister Caroline Désir said primary and secondary schools would be treated differently, as experts widely agreed that 0-12 year olds were less affected by the virus and less contagious.

In all four of the colour-coded scenarios - from green to red - primary and nursery school pupils would be expected to attend school five days a week.

In secondary schools, pupils would attend four days a week, with distance learning on Wednesday, assuming the situation remains yellow. A return to five days a week is envisaged once a vaccine is available.

If the situation worsens to orange or red, secondary school classes would be halved in size, with pupils attending two days a week (Monday-Tuesday or Thursday-Friday) and expected to follow remote teaching methods for the rest of the week.

Activities outside school would be allowed in the "yellow" scenario, but would be banned if the situation becomes orange or red.

The concept of "bubbles" - isolated individual classes - remains in place. If a pupil or member of staff tests positive, the bubble would stay home.

Written by The Bulletin