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Why did Emmanuel Macron finally decide to close schools?

A child who attended home school on March 21, 2020. – GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

  • Faced with the violence of the third wave of Covid-19, Emmanuel Macron announced new measures on Wednesday, in particular the advancement of the spring break.
  • A decision that saves time and is the least costly politically.

Families finally know what their daily life will be like for the next four weeks. Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday new measures intended to curb the worsening Covid-19 epidemic. Schools will finally be closed for three weeks across the country, colleges and high schools for a month, while the president previously rejected this option. 20 Minutes explains the bottom line of this decision.

How will the next month go for the students?

“We are going to close nurseries, schools, colleges and high schools for three weeks,” Emmanuel Macron announced. Next week, students will have home schooling, except for the children of caregivers or those with disabilities, who will have face-to-face classes.

Then on April 12, they will be on vacation for two weeks, all areas combined. On April 26, the school will resume face-to-face for kindergarten and primary students, but will still be remote for middle and high school students. And on May 3, these same middle and high school students will have the right to return to class. To mitigate the shock, families who have the opportunity to go green will be able to do so, because interregional trips are possible next weekend.

Why act on schools?

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Emmanuel Macron cannot yet assess the effect of the hybrid confinement set up 13 days ago in 16, then 19 departments, and which concerns a third of the French population. And he can no longer wait, the number of patients in intensive care having climbed to 5,072, beyond normal hospital capacities and the peak of the second wave of November.

Until then, the government wanted to keep schools open until the last limit. This is for both educational and social reasons. Especially since the scientific community is not unanimous on the role that institutions would play in the spread of the virus. According to Prof. Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva, schools are “one of the major places of contamination” with Covid-19. But the VIGIL study, the results of which were published on Wednesday and which has been carried out by pediatricians on 4,000 children since June, indicates that the school would play only a minor role in the contaminations.

Final attempt to preserve the establishments, since Monday, a new health protocol has been adopted in the 19 confined departments. A single case of Covid-19 in a classroom now results in its closure. And its effects are already being felt, with a skyrocketing class closures. According to the Snes-FSU (first secondary school union), which lists the returns of some academies, that of Créteil had 659 closed classes on Wednesday, against 267 the day before. It also creates a lot of complications and a form of disorganization in institutions and within families. The status quo was no longer tenable. The temporary closure of establishments therefore appears to be the last weapon to be used. Especially since it allows de facto more parents to telecommute. However, despite the government’s recommendations in this area, only 26% of employees were teleworked at least one day in February, a figure that has been stable since December, indicates a Dares survey published last week.

Why gamble on the holidays?

Spring holidays normally start on April 10 for zone A, on April 17 for zone C, on 24 for zone B, and the president of the Ile-de-France region, Valérie Pécresse, had suggested last week to moving forward. An idea to which Jean-Michel Blanquer was opposed, but which finally hit the mark with Emmanuel Macron, who is advancing leave for two areas. Because it saves time “hoping that the health situation will be less critical after the holidays,” says Sophie Vénétitay, Deputy Secretary General of SNES-FSU.

In addition, teachers will be able to start being vaccinated from mid-April. Some of them will thus be better protected in May, if they resume face-to-face work. Adapting the holidays to close schools as short as possible also appears to be the least costly solution politically. “Because Emmanuel Macron, and especially Jean-Michel Blanquer, have often boasted that France is the European country where schools have been the most open since the start of the pandemic,” said Rodrigo Arenas, president of the FCPE.

What problems does this measure pose?

The first confinement had been very badly lived in many families, because the parents could not manage telework and school at home. It had also caused educational and psychological damage to children. And homeschooling has not been successful overall. Because if some students were well teamed numerically, others were not. Video lessons were certainly offered, but the work was sometimes just posted by email, with no real feedback, the teachers themselves having to manage their confined children. The educational community fears that the scenario will repeat itself. “We fear that it will go better than a year ago because nothing has been anticipated. The problem of computer equipment for students has not been resolved and very few teachers have been trained in distance education, ”emphasizes Sophie Vénétitay. The situation of middle school students particularly worries him: “because they are not necessarily very independent in their work”.

This time, parents of young children will be able to better supervise their children’s homework. Private sector employees will be able to benefit from partial activity if they have to look after a child under the age of 11. And the self-employed, liberal professions or health and contract workers can take sick leave if they cannot telework. Still, many of them will certainly hesitate to take advantage of these devices, according to Rodrigo Arenas: “Because they will fear that this will be frowned upon by their employer, because they will not be able to afford their income to drop because of unemployment. partial, or because their service would not run if they were away for so long ”.

What will happen after the holidays?

The question is also whether the schools will indeed reopen after the holidays, as is already wondering Guislaine David, general secretary of Snuipp-FSU (first primary school union): “We will need a real reopening plan, with a teacher vaccination plan, effective measures in the canteen or in terms of distancing, ”she demands in advance.

The holding of the patent and baccalaureate exams at the end of the year also seems more and more threatened, according to Sophie Vénétitay: “Under these conditions, it seems impossible that the grand oral is maintained. We also ask for the adaptation of the French bac exams, so that the program is lightened ”. As for Rodrigo Arenas, he pleads for exams to be delivered via continuous assessment: “we have no other choice”, he believes.

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