Just as parents are beginning to worry (panic?) just a little about the idea that it won’t be safe for our children to return to school in the fall, we’re getting a peek at a different scenario. In France, some students were allowed to return to school on Tuesday as part of the country’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions gradually. But social-distancing measures make education look very different from what we’re used to, as a popular photo on Twitter shows.
“The children are coming back today (a small part of them rather),” local reporter Lionel Top wrote (in French) on Twitter, sharing photos from a school in Tourcoing, France. “Very strange, even disturbing atmosphere.”
And viewers have found one of his photos particularly “harrowing” as one reply put it. It shows preschoolers playing on a blacktop with chalk squares drawn around them so they won’t get too close to their friends.
Les enfants font leur rentrée aujourd’hui (un petite partie d’entre-eux plutôt).
Ambiance très étrange, voire dérangeante… pic.twitter.com/g91y5hLatJ
— Lionel Top (@lioneltop) May 12, 2020
Though the number of cases in France is decreasing, the virus is far from eradicated. As in the U.S., there is still a concern that there isn’t enough testing available to prevent another wave from happening. That’s why the schools that are opening are capping their classes at 10 students for preschools and 15 for higher grades in order to make enough space for the children to remain 6 feet apart from each other. According to France24, it’s up to local governments to determine how to limit students, but most are likely prioritizing children of essential workers. Many parents are also keeping their children home voluntarily.
“Truth is, we don’t know whether we are right to do so or no, we don’t know if it’s a mistake,” Mathilde Manaud, the mother of two children ages 3 and 7, told the news outlet. “We ask ourselves this question every day, and we change our mind every day. We are trying to convince ourselves that if they are reopening, they assume they can handle the situation.”
Despite the adults’ reaction to Top’s photos, he said the students seemed to be taking the new rules in stride on Tuesday.
“They laughed and played together but from far away,” he told Today Parents. “The pupils did not see it like a punishment.”
The schools in the U.S. that have remained open for children of essential workers have been implementing similar social distancing measures. Considering how overcrowded our public school classes already felt before the pandemic, we’re not sure how this is going to work on a larger scale.
While your kids are at home, you can help explain to them why with these coronavirus kids books.