Back to school (for some) some of the time

(For Belgians reading this right now, this post might be evident as we are all in the middle of the exit of our lockdown but I'm writing this down to remember later how things were done, as well as to explain to some foreign friends)

Since Monday, Belgium enters its phase 2 of a lockdown exit strategy. Early May businesses could re-open with a long list of security measures (social distancing etc) if their employees can't execute homework.  Shops opened a week ago and thank goodness there was no rush in the shopping streets.

Previous Friday schools re-opened for some students as a test and yesterday they reopened.
Some students indeed...Only some are grades are allowed back since the security measures require classes to be split up in smaller groups without contact and there is simply not enough rooms and teachers. So only the most critical grades are allowed back: grade 1, 2, 6 and 12 maximum. If a school can't cope and doesn't have enough infrastructure, then less grades have returned.
The issue for many schools is that they also need to take care for students whose parents have to work outside their house and do not have other care...and these cannot get mixed with the school children in anyway. 

So class rooms and teachers got reassigned in a big puzzle.  Teachers also have to help teaching grade 1, 2, 6 and 12 even if that's not their grade because the groups need to be smaller while at the same time they still need to distance teach their own grades as well. Quite a challenge!

So Kabouter was the lucky one to be in grade 1 and invited to come back.  I was very reluctant to be honest as I felt safe in our little family bubble and the homeschooling seemed to go relatively well. I realise very well we are privileged.  Even though I had the impression the children seemed to do very well, Kabouter said he wanted to return to school if he had a choice to see his friends.  I feared for Beertje's reaction when he'd say behind without his bigger brother who had become his fixed play buddy.

Only a few days before we got the confirmation that grade 1 would start op for 4 half days per week. That means more time lost for us to bring and pick him up while home working yet it also meant that Beertje would still spend some time with his brother each day.

The instruction films came in, the explanations and it seemed so clinical and sterile to me , intuitively how a school should not be.   Teachers with facial masks and facial screens,  class groups split up, new teachers and new rooms to be assigned, fixed spread out spots, all materials predistributed and not to be shared in anyway anymore.  The children bring their own tissues, a towel to wash their hands, ... Parents with facial masks have to drop off the children with social distance off outside the school and the children need to go in...straight to the toilets to wash their hands.  A few more dozen times so it seems, the hands need to get washed.  The little groups can never mix, so arrival times, breaks etc are spread a bit so they don't meet. We must be very timely to bring and pick up the children at very exact hours (...which is quite a challenge while working at home and being in meetings etc).

Pfff I learned once again I am very resistant to change. While I broke down and cried and panicked at the start of the lockdown, I had new tears now I had to release my boy again this way and send him to school.

Just before we left, Kabouter claimed that he felt uncertain he'd be able to follow all this instructions since he had never walked into the school by himself.  There I had confidence he'd quickly learn and get the new routines.  So off he went with Jan.

A few hours I picked up a happy little boy who was chatting a lot.  Despite all security measures he had clearly enjoyed the social contacts and spending time with his friends again. The teachers do their best to create a warm environment and had spent the first test day celebrating the return with crafts and sharing experiences where the children could share their experiences and emotions about Corona and the lockdown.  Kabouter had mostly missed his friends and was still sad that he was a bit ill the day before the school closure which caused him missing a pyjama day at school.   They had all decorated a shoebox and they got to choose from a little "store" a selection of the class toys for their shoebox which got distributed this way among the children for them to use alone until the end of the year.

As of this week he's getting new teachings again but he's still enthusiastic to go and I guess the measures will become routine for all of us.

Now we have to wait and see how the virus reacts to the new liberties we get, we have to wait how the others react disciplined or not.  But I'm a bit more optimistic than 10 days ago: first countries that reopened schools more than we did seem successful.  I start to hope a little that Beertje would be able to return 1 or 2 weeks before the summer just to have the feeling that he's been able to return as well. 


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