The students returned to school on Monday for a return to school marked by the uncertainty and the challenges that the Omicron variant poses to education, between risks of Covid contamination, class closures and a potential explosion in the number of sick teachers.
In terms of health protocol, no big change to be expected for this risky return to school: level 3 (out of 4) is maintained in elementary schools, just like level 2 in middle and high schools, in order to reduce mixing. between classes and levels. On the other hand, there is no longer a class closure as soon as we reach three cases of Covid.
Several negative tests to return to class
Second development: the Minister of National Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, has decided to strengthen the “contact tracing” policy, which will subject students to three tests in four days if there is a positive in the class. “What changes is that now, when the family takes the first test, they will receive two free self-tests in the pharmacy, so that the students can test themselves again at home on D + 2 and D + 4”, a indicated the minister, in an interview with the Parisian newspaper on Sunday evening.
A pupil may return to class following the presentation of a negative result, from the first test carried out. Monday morning, Mr. Blanquer repeated on LCI that “school is fundamental for children”. “Children are the number one priority” and “closing schools can only be a last resort”.
Asked about the difficulties at school in the coming weeks, the minister “does not deny that the month of January can be a bit tense”. “We are in the process of organizing ourselves so that there is a continuity of public service, we will be able to get through this month of January”.
Unions denounce a “gas factory”
The adjustments to the protocol are criticized by the unions, in particular by Guislaine David, general secretary of SNUipp-FSU, the first union of primary teachers. This re-entry is “at high risk” because “schools will be open to the virus without security”, she regretted. “The multiplication of reactive tests will complicate the organization on the ground, it will be a real gas factory,” she said.
The same goes for Sud-Education. “Beyond sending staff and students to break the pipe, this new protocol will make working conditions even more difficult, which were already too much,” denounced the union in a statement Sunday evening. “From now on, monitoring the transmission of three tests for each contact case student will be infeasible. “
The government has, in passing, rejected the call from certain opposition figures and a section of the teaching staff to postpone the start of the school year for a week. “Postponing the date of the start of the school year would have only postponed the problem”, underlined Laurent Zameczkowski, vice-president of the Peep, a federation of parents of pupils which denounces however the “cosmic denial” of the government in matter of ” securing classrooms ”.
The primary teachers’ unions are calling for a return to the policy of closing a class from the first positive case, a measure which has not been in force since November 29.
Risk of teacher absenteeism
On the eve of the holidays, 3,150 classes were closed in France due to the epidemic. And in the light of this new school year, a new threat hangs over teaching: a “risk of increased absenteeism” among the 866,000 teachers. During the school holidays, the scientific council itself estimated at “at least” a third of the teachers who could be affected by the virus by the end of January, either by being positive for Covid-19, or by being in contact. .
But the easing of the isolation rules, announced by the Minister of Health, should avoid cascading absences. Thus, the teachers contact case “given the doctrine which now applies, they go back to school if they are vaccinated after having done a test”, said Mr. Blanquer, specifying that the parent-teacher meetings will be held in distancing.
Finally, the ministry admitted that the deployment of CO2 sensors in schools was “totally insufficient”. He launched a “call to mayors” to take advantage of the state fund of 20 million euros to provide their schools with sensors.
The announcement of the open school is “a beautiful story in which the FCPE no longer believes”, observes the co-president of the federation of parents of pupils, Carla Dugault, who emphasizes that the children have been “abused” since the beginning of the health crisis.