Reunion, a “laboratory” for the start of the school year in the metropolis?

If the island has so far been little affected by the epidemic, the number of Covid-19 cases is multiplying. “For the first time, Reunion is experiencing real viral circulation”, lamented, Friday August 21, the prefect Jacques Billant. As of Tuesday, August 25, 48 infected people were recorded in just 24 hours. The Regional Health Agency of Réunion (ARS) notes, however, that most are not cases “imported“Metropolitan area, but rather”indigenous cases“. Despite this upsurge, the rectorate of Reunion ensures that the goal is to avoid the closure of schools at all costs.

22 schools affected, hundreds of students confined

August 17 was a start “a bit special»For students from Réunion. And in fact: some schools in the town of Saint-Denis closed their doors the very day of the start of the school year. As soon as they return home, immediately confined, the students and their parents find it difficult to understand the situation. “There are inconsistencies and a great misunderstanding regarding the application of the protocol», Protested the head of the Federation of Parents of Students (FCPE) of Reunion Damien Amouny. Parents of students wonder: how to explain that the prefecture of Reunion prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people on the whole island while 35 students can meet in an enclosed place? “It’s a strange period: almost all the schools have reopened, after the start of the school year, while today we discovered 5 cases in a school in the port, which closed», Notes Hortense *, whose son is entering kindergarten.

Today we sent home 4 classes, or 136 students, because there was a teacher who tested positive

Gilles Frémenteau, principal at the Mémona Hintermann-Affejee high school in Saint-Denis

Currently, according to the Federation of Parents of Students of Reunion, approximately “1000 children [contaminés et «cas contacts»] and about twenty teachers are confined“. In total, 22 schools are affected, including 5 elementary schools, 6 colleges and 11 high schools, in 13 municipalities (out of 24). Gilles Frémenteau, principal at the Mémona Hintermann-Affejee high school in Saint-Denis, is one of these establishments affected by the Covid. “Last week, a student was identified as Covid. The whole class was confined, as well as the 4 teachers who were in contact with the class. And today, we sent home 4 classes, or 136 students, because there was a teacher who tested positive. Currently, 160 students of the establishment are kept at home and 7 teachers and accompanying persons», He confides to Figaro. The situation is even more worrying in Saint-Denis, where the start of 14 out of 24 schools has been postponed, or 60% of establishments. It is clear that barely two weeks after the start of the school year, the announcements of partial or total closure of schools follow one another: “There is an upsurge in Covid cases among young people in Reunion», Confirms Gilles Frémenteau.

Closures by class

However, “the measures are much more drastic here than in the metropolis»Assures a parent. “We are on an island, so we are much more careful and far-sighted, we do not have the same means as in metropolitan France», He adds. Based on the July protocol, which does not include the obligation to wear a mask for teachers, Reunion has made it a point of honor not to completely close establishments. “Currently, we manage Covid-19 situations in a very targeted way: we do not close an establishment if a case of Covid is found, it is only the students of the class in question who are kept at home.», Tells us the rector of the Reunion Island academy, Chantal Manès-Bonnisseau.

We have the feeling that Reunion Island serves as a laboratory for the metropolis

Damien Amouny, FCPE manager of Réunion

For some parents, however, it seems “incoherent»To close classes in a targeted manner and not the entire establishment. Hélène *, whose daughter is enrolled in an elementary school in Saint-Denis, admits not understanding these local closures. The children, 200 in her daughter’s school, constantly rub shoulders with each other: “There is no physical distancing either during recess or during sports lessons“. Same story with Frédéric *, whose son is in premiere: “There was a case in his class, so we sent the students home, but not the second and final year. However, it is not because we are in first year that we do not mix with second and final year students!», He is alarmed. Hortense, for her part, hesitated for a long time to put her 3-year-old son in kindergarten, “but we can’t stop everything and put on stand-by», She explains. “At this moment especially, there are plenty of cases of suspicion in his class. But we expected it, it was almost expected, the opposite would have surprised usShe smiles. “Classes can close overnightHer husband nods.

“We have the impression that our children are the sacrifices of this crisis”

Despite the efforts of some school directors to inform parents of students, some admit that they still do not understand the conditions for returning to class. “There is 5% absenteeism in schools in Reunion Island – parents do not put their child in school because they are afraid!»Exclaims Damien Amouny of the FCPE. “It feels like there is no real communication“, He adds, explaining that the Réunionese have”the feeling that Reunion Island serves as a laboratory for the metropolis, that it serves as a test». «We are guinea pigs. We have the impression that our children are a bit the sacrifices of this crisis», He asserts.

Echoing these anxieties, the voice of the rectorate tries somehow to impose itself: “We spend a lot of time reassuring parents. Children are safe at school: it is a perimeter within which we are careful to ensure that barrier gestures and measures are respected. By going to school, children understand the crisis better and carry this message home. They become ambassadors of good behavior».

* The first name has been changed

See also – Blanquer says he is ready to “close an establishment and start distance education” for “extreme cases”

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