‘We would much rather have opted partly for distance learning from the start of the school year,’ says Maggy Vankeerberghen, the director of the technical atheneum in Halle, where two to three students tested positive for the corona virus every day this week.
“Fear dominated my teachers and educators for the past week. Every day we received reports that two to three students had tested positive for the corona virus. Since Wednesday, 200 of our 730 students have been quarantined at home. ‘
In the past two weeks, four teachers have been infected and many have been quarantined at home recently, causing gaps in schedules and creating chaos. We could not send all the students who had no classes to the classrooms because we have no room for them. That is why we sometimes had to send students home in the afternoon. ‘
‘The extended autumn break is more than welcome, as a cooling-off moment for the pupils and the teachers, to create some distance and to relax. Classically you feel the tension rising anyway just before such a holiday. But in corona times that was even more the case than usual. ‘
‘We have to work in a chaotic way. This creates unrest because many students and teachers drop out. I am regularly told by teachers and educators that teleworking is the norm, that we should have as little contact as possible with each other and that mass events are prohibited, but that we have to organize one every day with 730 students and 120 staff. ‘
No paper manuals
‘The frustration is that things could have turned out differently. We would much rather have opted partly for distance learning from the start of the school year, because it would have been much more sustainable. Now nothing had been arranged in advance and the minister insisted on full-time physical lessons and daily attendance at school, with teachers in front of the class. ‘
‘That is not modern education. There is so much more possible. For example, we have not been working with paper manuals for four years. Even in class, our students follow all subjects via a laptop. I am very happy that we did not have to go through that digital change, which at the time cost blood, sweat and tears but is now bearing fruit, during the first wave. That must have been very stressful for many other schools. ‘
I am very happy that we did not have to go through that digital change, which at the time cost blood, sweat and tears but is now bearing fruit, during the first wave.
‘Because we had been expecting the high infection rates for a while and partly under pressure from the teachers, we did not wait for instructions from higher up and we already partly switched to distance learning in mid-October. Since then, the second and third grade pupils have attended classes at home one day a week. After the autumn break, we want to increase that to three days. Or four days for students who have many theoretical subjects and who can follow perfectly at home. We also plan distance learning two days a week for pupils in the first and second secondary school. ‘
‘But we will do that according to the classes and the students. For example, students in vocational education have more practical subjects and we will try to continue these in small groups. At the end of September, in a special class council, we identified all vulnerable students, such as truants and children with a difficult home situation. The intention is that they can continue to come to school physically, because we know that otherwise they are in danger of being left out. ‘