Should we extend the holidays to reduce the epidemic?



“We can adapt the school holidays: this does not call into question the opening of schools, it is admitting that we can have school holidays of one week longer, perhaps by grouping them together. “ Less than two weeks before the winter holidays in zone A, which begin on February 6, the president of the scientific council, Jean-François Delfraissy, proposes to upset the schedule.

This suggestion reopens the debate on the role of schools that have remained open in France, unlike a series of neighboring countries. In the mind of Jean-François Delfraissy, the idea is to close all the schools at the same time for three weeks, instead of two weeks according to three separate zones, to achieve a form of confinement of the students. Then, the establishments could reopen at the beginning of March, by setting up careful supervision of the pupils.

The idea raises several questions, both in terms of feasibility, health efficiency and the impact on children and their families, as well as on teachers. “We do not take a position in terms of epidemiology”, recalls Frédéric Marchand, secretary general of Unsa-education, who expresses his preference for maintaining the opening of schools, colleges and high schools, subject to degradation linked to variants of the virus. But according to him it would be necessary “Anticipate now and be aware of the cascade of consequences that will have a modification of the holiday calendar”. No details have been discussed: for the moment, the Ministry of Education has pleaded for maintaining the initial schedule, perhaps accompanied by new measures on canteens.

“Announcing that the holidays start two weeks earlier in some places may not be easy”, euphemizes Frédéric Marchand, who judges an extension of leave “Possible, but with serious disruption of the system”. If the solution were to be adopted, it would be necessary in particular “Determine if it is a question of real holidays or if the teachers will have to provide educational activities during the additional period, and in what form”, he enumerates. An additional period of leave which also raises the question of how to occupy the children, without summer camps or indoor sports activities.

According to Mircea Sofonea, lecturer in epidemiology at the University of Montpellier, “The idea of ​​extending the holidays is good, but insufficient in itself”, given the dynamics of the epidemic. According to him, it must be coupled with travel restrictions, and the extension of one week will not be enough to overcome confinement: Unfortunately, it is four hard weeks that we need to break the curve of the epidemic. “ The researcher, who assimilates a possible new confinement to “An admission of failure”, regrets that earlier and more localized decisions were not taken, which would perhaps have made it possible to avoid drastic general measures.

“Why not have anticipated instead of ending up in the“ sauve-qui-peut ”? “, abounds Rodrigo Arenas, co-president of the Federation of Parents’ Councils (FCPE). This does not oppose the prospect of a merger of leave for all academies since it relieves the hospitals, but he reminds that the measure will have repercussions on “Family life and students, who go to school in conditions never seen before”. An additional period of separation from school which worries parents, teachers and school heads: “The answer to the question of whether to extend the holidays is sanitary: on the educational level, any new cut is bad for the pupils”, commented on a headteacher in the Paris region.

Finally, “Extending the February holidays will automatically lead to a reduction in summer holidays”, adds Rodrigo Arenas. A perspective to say the least sensitive: “The subject has not yet been broached, but any shortening of the summer holidays would be a bad idea”, objects Frédéric Marchand, who emphasizes that “Everyone will need a rest after the difficult months ahead”.

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