“Open school”: facing the Covid, proclamations are not enough

Editorial of the “World”. Since the confinement of March 2020, which had a deleterious effect on many students, Emmanuel Macron and the government have set themselves the line of keeping the school open. This choice, made in the name of the fight against inequalities, the preservation of the future of young people but also the continuity of economic life, has been confirmed with each epidemic rebound. Jean-Michel Blanquer, the Minister of National Education, now speaks of it as a “Doctrine that we can always criticize, but which is there”. The start of the school year will therefore take place, as planned, on January 3.

Yet proclamations are not enough. In recent days, alerts have multiplied, coming from the educational world as well as from the medical world. However, they are recurrent and should not be taken lightly. Supporting arguments, they cast doubt on the ability of the national education ministry to cope with the surge caused by the Omicron variant. The contrast is striking between the alarmist remarks of the Minister of Health, who speaks of a ” tsunami “ contamination, and the relative phlegm of the Minister of Education, who nevertheless struggles to demonstrate that all means are being used to bring the “doctrine” to life.

The main question concerns the capacity of the school to screen massively and effectively. Before the start of the September school year, the ministry promised 600,000 tests each week. In reality, little more than 400,000 have been offered, and rarely more than half have been achieved, not least because parental consent is required. Even if the vast majority of young people develop mild forms of the disease, it is imperative to strengthen the effectiveness of controls to isolate the sick, treat them and contain the epidemic. The pledges remain insufficient for the moment, because the health protocol has barely been tightened.

The slowness with which the institution adapts to health instructions shows that it is struggling to take the measure of new risks. Since the start of the epidemic, health authorities have insisted on ventilating classrooms to prevent the spread of the virus. However, in some establishments, opening the windows widely remains a challenge. In the others, it is necessary to monitor the air quality by equipping oneself with CO sensors.2.

The puzzle is increased tenfold

Investments have been made, but well below needs. If more than half of high schools have such equipment, 80% of schools lack it. As too often, the state and local communities have passed the buck. Or they let their guard down, hoping that the virus would eventually go away and the problem with it.

The “mammoth” is also challenged in its “human resources” dimension. By the end of January, a third of teachers could miss the call because they risk being affected directly or indirectly by the virus, warned the scientific council.

In ordinary times, teacher replacements pose insurmountable problems for the institution. In extraordinary times, the puzzle is increased tenfold. Jean-Michel Blanquer promises to appeal to retirees or to resort to fixed-term contracts to fill vacant positions, but nothing says he will be heard.

Never has the betting dimension appeared so strong. The height would be that, for lack of anticipation, the national education contributes to the dreaded disorganization of the economic activity in January, whereas one counts on the contrary on it to limit it.

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“Open school”: facing the Covid, proclamations are not enough