mask, sport, contact tracing… what measures for this return to school?

SCHOOL COVID PROTOCOL. A new version of the health protocol is in effect for the 2022-2023 school year. It is the basic level that takes precedence at the moment. Protocol levels, applying for jobs, wearing a mask, contact tracing… On this special page we explain everything!

[Mis à jour le 1er septembre 2022 à 12h05] Another wave of Covid cannot be ruled out, but the situation is under control for now. Before the start of the school year on September 1, 2022, it is therefore a “basic level” school health protocol (the lowest existing level) established throughout France, from kindergarten to secondary school. If levels 1, 2 and 3 exist, this level has been adopted “in view of the health situation and on the recommendation of the health authorities,” explains the Ministry of Education on its site. Result, a return to school without restrictions: face-to-face lessons, no mask wearing in class, classic sports lessons… However, respect for barrier gestures is recommended. for everyone. The Ministry of Education indicates that teachers who want it can get surgical masks and self-tests through their academies until the All Saints holiday. If the transition to a higher level of the protocol proves necessary, its implementation must take place within 10 days.

Could an 8th wave of Covid-19 coincide with the start of the school year? The new health minister, François Braun, warned on August 23 that this was a possibility. The absence of restrictions in classes, therefore, questions some scientists: “If autumn is cold and rainy and we therefore feel more confined, there will be an increase in the number of cases,” according to entrusted to BFM TV Michèle Legeas, professor at the School of Advanced Studies in Public Health. However, she believes the decision of a basic level before the start of the school year is appropriate, “given the current traffic and the epidemic severity among children”. For Fabienne El-Khoury, doctor of public health, the protocol is “not in line with the epidemic situation”, she assures, although she understands that it is difficult to take binding measures when the virus is not circulating much and that the majority of people are vaccinated.

The three levels of measurement that “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 holding back to specific and binding rules. To this is added a “basic” level, the lowest level of the health protocol. What exactly do these vigilance thresholds consist of?

  • the plinth level : Regarding the health protocol, the basic level is based on the general recommendations of the Ministry of Health and Prevention. As for the welcome doctrine, the basic level includes face-to-face classes in elementary, middle and high school.
  • the level 1 : It equates to moderate vigilance. In this case, the lessons are conducted 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 the strict minimum of large gatherings (i.e. open days or scholarships, but not gatherings of students from different classes).
  • the level 2 : it corresponds to increased 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.
  • the level 3 : it signals a very unfavorable evolution of 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. At the national level, education managers are expected to strengthen restrictive measures, in particular through a restriction of 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.

The determination of the level of the protocol meets a number of criteria, in particular: qualitative (nature of the variant) and quantitative (situation of hospitals) analysis, as explained by Marie-Hélène Piquemal, National Vice President of Snalc (National Union of Secondary Schools, Colleges, Schools and Higher Education). It states that the determination of the level of the protocol “is based on the Council for Defense and National Security (CDSN), on the proposal of the health authorities and the Ministry of Education”.

The other important measure of this new version is the 10-day deadline for implementation of the transition from one level to another, allowing educational 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 the hasty announcements made this year,” said La Croix’s comments. 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, general secretary of the SNES-FSU (main trade union for secondary education ). . 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, which 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 spoke on the air in mid-July 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 raised the subject on France Info on July 13, this protocol is also much more concrete, especially in the sense that it is not a standard administration”. no longer have to live with all the “announcements to parents”, but also with the pressure of applying the 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 Echoes about the difficulties created by “contact tracing” and “mixing”. From now on, teachers will not have to follow any rules other than those that will apply to the entire population… What a relief.

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