May 8, 2020 / 3:16 PM / 2 months ago

Plastic shields in place, Dutch schools to reopen amid coronavirus

DEN BOSCH, Netherlands (Reuters) - At the Springplank school in the Dutch city of Den Bosch, staff have installed plastic shields around students’ desks and disinfectant gel dispensers at the doorways as part of preparations to reopen amid the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

Pupils sitting behind partition boards made of plexiglass attend a class at a primary school, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Den Bosch, Netherlands, May 8, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

New infections in the Netherlands have been declining for weeks, and the government on Wednesday announced a schedule to relax some of its lockdown measures, with elementary schools to reopen on May 11.

“Our teachers are not worried,” said Rascha van der Sluijs, the school’s technical coordinator.

“We have flexible screens that we bought so we can protect our teachers if students are coughing.”

Though schools have been closed since March 14, many including the Springplank have remained open with skeleton staff for a handful of students whose parents work in essential sectors such as healthcare. Most have been taking classes online.

Each district is setting its own policies for reopening, with many planning to accept students only on alternate days. At some schools, the teachers will wear medical masks.

As of Friday, there have been 42,093 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Netherlands, with 5,359 deaths, according to data from the National Institute for Health. Of those, 1.3% of infections and one death were registered among people under 20 years old.

High schools are not due to open until June.

At the Springplank, younger students will use one entrance and older students a different one. Parents will have to drop their children at the gate.

“What we’re worried about is the adults,” Van der Sluijs said.

Reporting by Piroschka van de Wouw; Writing by Toby Sterling; Editing by Mike Collett-White

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