Covid: Jean-Michel Blanquer’s tough gamble to keep the school open

Posted on Jan 3rd. 2022, 6:15 PMUpdated January 3, 2022 at 6:20 PM

“January will be tense,” Jean-Michel Blanquer told “Paris” on Sunday, unveiling the new health protocol for schools. Faced with the rise of the Omicron variant, the Minister of National Education on LCI this Monday called out the “very great difficulties” of the situation, saying he was ready to “face them”. The issue was on the agenda this Monday at a meeting in Matignon around Jean Castex on “the continuity of essential public services”, including “places of education”.

“The hardest thing,” said Jean-Michel Blanquer, “is the fact that people struggle with moderate forms of the disease and are absent as a result.” “It’s not very serious, but it does lead to more absences than usual, he thinks. it can disrupt the school. »

“A third of the teachers or more”

Last month, the Scientific Council estimated at “a third or more” the number of teachers who could be “directly or indirectly” affected by the virus in January.

“We are organizing ourselves so that there is continuity in the public service,” assures Jean-Michel Blanquer. The executive is counting on the new protocol that limits the duration of contact case isolation, the multiplication of tests for students, the incentive to vaccinate 5-11 year olds and calls on mayors to equip their schools with CO2 sensors .

The minister had so far encouraged their “generalization”, but by relativizing the role of the CO2 sensor to that of a “thermometer”, “not central to the management of the health crisis”.

“Several Hundreds of Retirees”

To address the lack of teachers and staff in the institutions, the Ministry of National Education has suspended all absences related to continuing education. And announced the recruitment of temporary workers and contract workers. Whereas today the pool of replacements for 100 teachers is 9% in the first degree, the minister wants to “go to at least 12%”. Volunteer retirees will also be reinstated, at a rate of “several hundreds per academy,” he announced Monday.

Faced with the concerns of teachers considering being “sent to the pipe breaker,” Jean-Michel also tries to reassure Blanquer by explaining that they are far more vaccinated than other professions. Even if about 10% of them continued to teach students without being.

He would like to see “the optimistic scenario” – “We have a feeling the peak is coming soon”. And “think we’ll get through this January”. But “we are talking about sometimes unpredictable topics,” he admits, such as “an increase in the number of absentees in this or that area”. “Distance learning can in any case be triggered,” the minister warns.

“Strong Risks” in Extracurricular

The school is also the canteen and after-school care. However, the employment situation there was already very tight before the crisis. “We no longer find substitutes for extracurricular activities, for school hygiene, for municipal catering…”, recalls Etienne Chaufour, responsible for education at Urban France, the association of elected officials from major cities. He fears “a painful return”. It is “very likely that we will no longer be able to provide certain services”, he warns, referring to the animation times of the after-school care, the meridian break, the morning nursery or the leisure centers on Wednesdays. “The risks are great,” he warns.

In October, the National Association of Directors Responsible for Education in Cities (Andev) sounded the alarm over “the blatant lack of extracurricular tutors” in schools, sometimes reaching “up to 37% attendance deficit” in certain situations.

In Marseille and Rouen, various sources already spoke on Monday about “a very tense situation”. While Strasbourg warned at the end of December about the risks of the occasional closure of certain canteens and invited parents to have their child lunch at home. Elsewhere, from Hauts-de-France to the Grand Est region via Brittany or Haute-Savoie, school transport – buses and trains – was also disrupted on Monday, with drivers positive for Covid.

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