basic level, thresholds, mask… What’s new for the start of the school year?

SCHOOL COVID PROTOCOL. It’s official: a new health protocol will go into effect in schools in September. Welcome doctrine, alert levels, vigilance thresholds… We take stock of the easing of the process.

[Mis à jour le 22 juillet 2022 à 10h47] In a few weeks, high school, middle and high school students will be making their big comeback to school. We will have to be careful in a context where the health situation is deteriorating again. For example, on Friday, July 22, Professor Delfraissy said on franceinfo: “The peak of the seventh wave has passed in terms of contagion”. But according to him, the epidemic is not over yet.” Therefore, the government presented a new protocol applicable to the school environment. The stated goal? To maintain a “strategy based on face-to-face education, for the success and well-being of students, while limiting the spread of the virus within schools and educational institutions”, the Ministry of National Education indicates. However, the executive assures that this new process “will be in accordance with the rules applicable outside the school environment also sought for this school year. Unlike the previous one, ruled by a color code and very specific threshold levels, this much lighter and less restrictive for teachers and their students.

It will apply from the beginning of the next school year and relax the rules laid down in the protocol in force since March 14. Far from the color code that evolved according to the degree of the epidemic, this new process is based on a “baseline” that brings together the recommendations of the health authorities and corresponds to a normal situation. Structured by different alert levels (determined on a scale from 1 to 3) and vigilance thresholds, it allows schools to adapt to the epidemic context by following a graded health framework, ie without the complex rules of case contacts and reports, on a large scale to go through in the past questioned. These three levels of measurement “can be activated depending on the context”, as explained to AFP Marie-Hélène Piquemal, the national vice president of Snalc, will allow schools to easily monitor the evolution of the epidemic, without adhering to specific and binding rules . What are these vigilance thresholds?

  • Level 1: It equates to moderate vigilance. In this case, the courses are delivered face-to-face, which does not prevent the teaching teams from having to know the latest recommendations on barrier gestures by encouraging students to respect them, but also by limiting groupings to the strict minimum important (i.e. open days or scholarships, but not groups of students from different classes).
  • Level 2: It corresponds to heightened vigilance. Despite the lessons that will remain face-to-face, reinforcement of barrier gestures will be necessary to avoid mixing of students by level. In addition, the practical modalities in physical education and sports (EPS) are being adapted to limit a possible spread of the virus.
  • Level 3: this indicates a very unfavorable development in the health context. It will initiate a high school welcome doctrine that can switch to hybrid education. Distance learning is then left a possibility to any city or department. On a national scale, teaching staff is expected to tighten up restrictive measures, in particular by restricting physical and sporting activities.

Finally, wearing a face mask in schools is also changing. From now on we will observe “a alignment of the school with the general population”. There is no specific rule in the school environment, no specific school testing policy, nor specific contact tracing device in the school environment. specifies the Ministry of National Education.

However, the new health protocol for the start of the 2022 school year has not yet been fully refined. Local authorities and parent federations must still be consulted about this protocol from 20 July. Moreover, a final decision will not be made until the end of August, a few days before the start of the school year, so that adjustments may still be necessary. In fact, the determination of the level of the protocol meets several criteria, in particular: the qualitative (nature of the variant) and quantitative (hospital situation)” analysis, as explained by Marie-Hélène Piquemal. It is up to the National Defense and Security Council (CDSN), to take the decision, on the proposal of the health authorities and the Ministry of Education.

The other key metric of this new version is a 10-day period for implementation of the transition from one level to another, which allows teaching teams to adapt to different scenarios. This is a major change from the previous protocol which remained very vague about the deadlines and room for maneuver of the teaching teams in situations of epidemic recovery. According to Sophie Vénétitay, general secretary of Snes-FSU, the first primary school union: This gives the teams more time to adapt on the field. It will be much more effective than this year’s hasty announcements “(comments reported by La Croix). However, we do not know the precise criteria that will allow to move from one level to another; everything will depend on epidemiological indicators .

Where the previous health protocol provided for a range of measures with regard to reporting and tracing contact cases, but also wearing a face mask under certain conditions, this time everything seems simpler. Regarding the wearing of a mask, the protocol for the start of the next school year provides for “a alignment of the school with the general population”, as explained by Sophie Vénétitay. Wearing a mask does not therefore fall below any of the warning levels or vigilance thresholds: it can only be re-imposed on orders from the health authorities at national level. “There are no specific rules in schools, no specific school testing policy,” she explained. In addition, if students who are positive for Covid-19 must always isolate themselves (according to the applicable health rules), isolation will not be planned for contact cases that do not even need to be tested. So no specific contact tracing in the school environment or saliva test campaigns for this back to school.

“School is no longer a world apart”. The sentence was signed by Sophie Vénétitay, the general secretary of the SNES-FSU (the main union for secondary education), who speaks on the air about the evolution of the health protocol. Referring to “constructive exchanges” with the ministry, she was pleased that “the reality on the ground” had finally been “heard” by the government. For Guislaine David, the spokesperson for the teachers’ union SNUipp-FSU, who spoke on the subject at France Info on July 13, this protocol is also much simpler in the concrete field, in the sense that it is not “not required for the teams, the directors and directors”, nor “an extraordinary administrative burden”. She’s glad she doesn’t have to live with all the “announcements to parents” anymore, as well as the pressure of applying protocol.

In fact, the ten-day period between the announcement of a protocol and the implementation date is a godsend for schools that had to comply with simple and complex rules for almost two years. Vincent Loustau, federal secretary of the Sgen-CFDT, acknowledged that this new protocol was “more pragmatic and appropriate” than the protocols imposed during the first five-year term. He told Les Echos about the difficulties of “contact tracing” and “mixing”. From now on, teachers will no longer have to follow rules other than those that will apply to the entire population… What a relief.

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