A group of concerned parents have penned a follow-up to their open letter to Minister of Education Claude Meisch, with regards to the Covid-19 situation.

Last month RTL Today published an open letter, penned by a group of concerned parents, aimed at Minister of Education Claude Meisch. Through a representative of the parents group, RTL Today has seen Meisch's reply to the earlier letter, in which the minister acknowledges that these are not easy times for neither pupils, teachers, nor parents, and that the government and his ministry continue to fight the pandemic while bearing the economy and social life in mind. In the context of schools specifically, Meisch noted that that this means "minimizing the chances for the virus, maximizing the chances for education."

Meisch's response also noted that measures are evaluated by his ministry alongside that of health, and new measures are discussed as the situation develops. Among these are some of the suggestions put forth by the concerned parents behind the aforementioned open letter.

The parents group representative to whom RTL spoke welcomed the minister's response. While noting that it lacks somewhat in concrete steps, the representative acknowledged that political decisions are not taken by a single person, and the minister's reply shows a willingness to listen and adapt.

Below follows a second open letter to the minister of education.

The letter

Dear Mr. Meisch,

Thank you very much for your reply. We are encouraged that you have considered the points we mentioned and we want to be part of the solution through common effort. Please help to protect our children, our families and our home: Luxembourg.

In reply to your message we wanted to reiterate some points which we felt needed clarification.

  1. WELL BEING OF OUR CHILDREN
We are in favor of keeping schools open safely as long as it is without jeopardizing human lives. We appreciate and understand why children need social contact, structure and interaction provided by the educational environment. We agree that shutting down educational facilities must only occur when there is no other alternative. We also know that this situation can develop, it is not a fantasy scenario but a very real and probable option if community transmission is not reduced and school sanitary standards are not upheld.

2.                PRESS CONFERENCE 12/11/20

The last press conference is a step in the right direction. However, more transparency is needed in a time when public confidence is decreasing. We can create public confidence through a well organized information campaign openly proving data to parents. Thank you for the data provided in this press conference.

3.                MOBILE TESTING TEAMS

These are a big plus and we hope that they will be a great help in reducing the spread of the virus, and we hope that they will be well organized from the start and be able to perform their functions adequately.

4.                RISK BASED APPROACH BASED ON COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION

We believe that the risk based approach outlined very clearly by the WHO should be reviewed and considered in depth by the Education Ministry. The guidelines clearly state that one should not only look at school transmission but also at community transmission. At the moment we are at record community transmission levels.

Supporting material.

QUARANTINE

The WHO guidelines also advocate quarantine in the case of contact with a positive case - there is no distinction between contact at school or elsewhere. If there is a positive case in a class the class should immediately be sent home and only allowed to resume after a period of quarantine and when the students have tested negative.

REDUCING THE NUMBERS

It seems quite clear that unless an overall effort is made throughout the society, case numbers may not go down and continue to threaten our health and economic security. As such we request you and your staff to further consider what can be done to reduce infection numbers. Schools are not a hotspot for the virus is hotly debated and is certainly not something that everyone accepts. Any elaboration and explanation of this with concrete evidence would be greatly appreciated. We believe that the WHO’s guidelines of working on the basis of community transmission are the safest option.

5.                TRANSPARENCY

Please continue to inform the public regularly. We believe each school’s numbers should be published weekly. This is a needed and feasible task as it will show the parents’ that the Ministry is willing to share data openly. Some schools are already doing this and it has only led to greater faith and trust in those institutions. Parents must be aware of the current protocol their respective schools are following and knowing what to expect, this does not always seem to be the case so we request you to please ensure that every school is communicating it’s sanitary measures very clearly to the parents regularly. Please publish a clearly outlined plan which details what the future steps might be  so parents will know when additional sanitary measures may be expected.

6.                MASKS

Please continue to support the use of masks in all classes. Children should wear a mask from age 6 and above at all times. There is no debate on this, it is universally accepted that masks work. We are aware that it can create difficulties for some children temporarily but we may be only a few months from the end of the pandemic in Luxembourg and we should do everything possible to save lives. Please introduce directives that make sure that the masks worn in school are effective as buffs have been shown to be inefficient.

7.                VENTILATION

We would like a directive for constant ventilation/air flow in classrooms to be issued. We understand that temperature considerations are present but we should do what is needed at a time of extremely high community transmission. It is a known fact that ventilation is key to reducing infections in closed spaces such as classrooms. If temperature is really a large concern then please install CO2 detectors which would alert a teacher when a classroom has to be ventilated, this is only as a last resort as it is clear that constant ventilation is key.

Please see article below, if you scroll down it shows the impact of ventilation on a classroom.

https://english.elpais.com/society/2020-10-28/a-room-a-bar-and-a-class-how-the-coronavirus-is-spread-through-the-air.html

Please see the article below which also clearly illustrates how vital ventilation is:

Article link.

8.                OUTDOORS WHENEVER POSSIBLE

All sports and any activities should be strongly encouraged to be outdoors whenever possible not only as this is the healthiest option but also to reduce transmission risk. It seems very risky to continue to allow indoor sports when community transmission is at record highs. Many parents have raised concerns about swimming in particular where they feel that the transmission risk is high.

9.                VULNERABLE FAMILY MEMBERS

Vulnerable family members (grand parents and siblings of pupils) still live in constant fear of possible infection through the children in the household. Please create an option for children with vulnerable family members in the household to have the option to distance learning if they choose it. These children carry a heavy burden as they are afraid of being responsible for serious illness within the family.

10.             MAISON RELAIS AND SUPPORT STRUCTURES

Please publish the number of transmissions that occurred inside maison relais. To us it seems very clear that the Maison Relais and lunchtime areas can be a transmission point. Please help us to improve the situation in the support structures by ensuring clear guidelines on disinfecting toys, mask wearing, regular hand washing. Please ensure adequate staff training and compliance with the sanitary rules.

11.             REGULAR TESTING OF TEACHERS AND EDUCATORS

Please continue to ensure that teachers and maison relais/foyers educators are tested very frequently to minimize adult to child transmission.

12.             Please also continue to consider the points in our last communication.

Thank you very much for your time and we look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Group 'Covid in Schools - Luxembourg’ (1500+ members)