SCHOOL COVID PROTOCOL. It’s official: a new health protocol will come into effect in schools in September. Welcome doctrine, alert levels, vigilance thresholds… We take stock of the relaxation of the process.
[Mis à jour le 20 juillet 2022 à 10h37] At the start of the school year, 12 million students will discover a brand new health protocol structured around three levels of measures. The Ministries of National Education and Health presented it on July 12 to the student unions. Developed in a context of epidemic recovery, with a 7th wave which should reach its peak just before the start of the school year – according to epidemiological forecasts – this strategy which “is based on face-to-face teaching” should still allow the limitation of “the circulation of the virus within schools and educational establishments”, as indicated by the government in a press release published on July 19. The watchword of this new anti-covid guide: apply to schools (almost) the same regulations than to the rest of the population. As such, the government assures that this new process will be in “consistency with the rules applicable outside the school environment is also sought for this school year. Unlike the previous one, governed by a color code and very specific threshold levels, this will be much lighter and less restrictive for teachers and their students.
Applicable from the start of the next school year, it relaxes the rules set by the protocol which has been in force since March 14. Far from the color code which evolved according to the degree of the epidemic, this new process is based on a “base level” which brings together the recommendations of the health authorities and which corresponds to a normal situation. Structured by different alert levels (determined on a scale of 1 to 3), and vigilance thresholds, it allows schools to adapt to the epidemic context by following a graduated health framework, i.e. without going through the complex rules of cases contacts and reports, widely questioned in the past. 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 simply follow the evolution of the epidemic, without obey specific and binding rules. What are these vigilance thresholds?
- Level 1: it is equivalent to moderate vigilance. In this case, the courses are held face-to-face, which does not prevent the educational teams from being required to find out about the latest recommendations on barrier gestures by encouraging students to respect them, but also by limiting groupings to the strict minimum. important (meaning open days or fairs, but not groups of pupils from different classes).
- Level 2: it corresponds to increased vigilance. Despite the classes that will remain face-to-face, the reinforcement of barrier gestures will be required to prevent the mixing of students by level. In addition, the practical modalities in physical education and sports (EPS) will be adapted to limit a possible spread of the virus.
- Level 3: this signals a very unfavorable development in the health context. It will trigger a reception doctrine in high school, which can switch to hybrid education. Distance education will then be a possibility left to each city or department. On a national scale, a strengthening of restrictive measures, in particular via a limitation of physical and sporting activities, will be expected from teaching staff.
However, the new health protocol for the start of the 2022 school year has not been fully refined. Local authorities and parents’ federations must still be consulted on this protocol from July 20. In addition, it will not be definitively decided until the end of August, a few days before the start of the school year, which may require subsequent modifications. In fact, the determination of the level of the protocol meets several criteria, and in particular qualitative (nature of the variant) and quantitative (hospital situation)” analysis, as explained by Marie-Hélène Piquemal. It will be 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 flagship measure of this new version is a 10-day period provided for the implementation of the transition from one level to another, which should allow educational teams to adapt to different scenarios. This is a big change compared to the previous protocol which remained very vague on the deadlines and the 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 will allow the teams to have more time to adapt on the pitch. It will be much more effective than the hasty announcements made this year “(comments reported by La Croix). However, we do not know the precise criteria which will make it possible to pass from one level to another; everything will depend on epidemiological indicators.
While the previous health protocol provided for a range of measures relating to the reporting and tracing of contact cases, but also to the wearing of a 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 “an alignment of the school with the general population”, as explained by Sophie Vénétitay. Wearing a mask is thus not included in any of the alert levels or vigilance thresholds: it can only be reimposed by order of the health authorities at national level. “There are no specific rules in schools, no more specific school testing policies,” she explained. In addition, if students positive for Covid-19 will always be required to isolate themselves (according to the health rules in force), there will be no isolation planned for contact cases who will not even be required to be tested. Thus, 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 is signed Sophie Vénétitay, the general secretary of the SNES-FSU (the main secondary education union), who speaks on the airwaves 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 SNUipp-FSU teachers’ union, who spoke on the subject on France Info on July 13, this protocol is also much simpler in the concrete field, in the sense that it does not “will not require for the teams, the directors and directors”, nor “an extraordinary administrative burden”. She is delighted to no longer have to live with all the “announcements to be made to parents”, but also the pressure of applying the protocol.
In fact, the ten-day period between the announcement of a protocol and its implementation date is a godsend for schools that had to follow singular and complex rules for almost two years. As such, Vincent Loustau, the federal secretary of the Sgen-CFDT recognized that this new protocol was “more pragmatic and applicable” than those imposed during the first five-year term. He told Les Echos the difficulties posed by “contact tracing” and “mixing”. From now on, the teachers will have no other rules to follow than those which will be in force for the whole of the population… What to be relieved.