French schools return amid apprehension over coronavirus pandemic

Access to the comments Comments
By Vincent Coste  & Lauren Chadwick
French schools return amid apprehension over coronavirus pandemic

As French schools have begun to reopen, some parents have chosen not to send their children back to school.

“What I have heard quite a bit is that families are afraid of the virus and of becoming infected,” said Marie Lugnier, secretary general of the Rhône department’s parent association.

“If they are able to keep their children at home, because there is at least one parent who is not working or has not yet resumed work, they prefer to keep them.”

France spent more than 50 days in lockdown with schools and businesses closed and strict restrictions on travel.

While other European countries have chosen to keep schools closed, the French government has said that keeping kids in school will prevent them from falling behind. From May 11, the country began opening some primary schools.

Jean-Michel Blanquer, the country’s minister of education, has said that students struggling in school should return first.

"We cannot ask the schools to sort the children, to say: so you're struggling. You're not good at school, so you're coming. However, you seem to be going. Your parents, they seem rather well off, no, you stay at home,” said Lugnier from the parents’ association.

"It's not possible, it's more school. The public school is supposed to accommodate everyone."

Lugnier says there are also families waiting to see how the return to school goes.

"The teaching and management teams have tried to make sure that the health protocol is applied as best as possible,” Lugnier said.

That includes working to enforce social distancing rules in the school.

A photo of young children playing in separate squares in a schoolyard went viral recently.

"The teachers will have to invent something. They will see how it will work by putting their own into it. We trust them; it is their job. I imagine they have all thought about it and they will try to make it go well."