Education, 23.04.2020

Anxious parents don't want to send their children to school

Some parents breathed a sigh of relief: from 11 May, classroom classes will again take place in the elementary schools. But there are also fathers and mothers – for example with pre-existing health conditions – who fear that their child may bring the corona virus into their family from school. What are we allowed to do, what not? CH Media has answered the most important questions.

Daniel Koch, federal delegate for the Corona epidemic, insists that children are not drivers of Covid-19 disease (see the respective article in today’s news).That's why schools will be up and running again in just under three weeks. But there is resistance to this - from the parents. Medical doctor Adriano Aguzzi announced on social media that he would not send his children to school, whatever Koch said. The neuropathologist at the University Hospital of Zurich has been dealing with viruses for 30 years and became known to the general public when he urged the lockdown in a self-made video.

1. Why is there resistance to the reopening of the schools?
Scientifically, it is still not clear what role children play in the transmission of the corona virus. Philippe Eggimann, infectiologist and president of the Vaud Medical Society (Waadtländer Ärztegesellschaft), therefore rates the decision to reopen the schools as political, and not scientific. If the children cannot carry out the required precautionary measures, there is a risk of unleashing new chains of infection.

2. What will happen if parents keep their children away from school for fear of the virus?
It’s fundamentally clear how compulsory schooling will be enforced, says Stephan Schleiss, Director of Education in Zug: "Children are obliged to attend school, there is no freedom of choice between attendance and distance learning." Anyone who is unable to attend classroom classes for health reasons – because the child or a parent is at risk – must provide proof of this with a doctor's certificate. And: "Anyone who keeps their children at home without a doctor's certificate risks a fine." Schleiss hopes that the federal government can create more trust, preferably through solid scientific evidence that the reopening of schools is responsible.

Home schooling has become the hallmark of the Corona age.

3. The fines can be several thousand francs. Will the authorities crack down?
That’s not known. Charles Vincent, Head of the Department of Primary Education in the Canton of Lucerne, would like to see whether the Confederation or the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Education Directors make recommendations. He personally advocates a cautious approach, and proposes that fines should be avoided in the first phase. "For example, if parents belong to the vulnerable group of people and are justifiably worried, it would not be opportune to immediately react with penalties," says Vincent.

4. How does the Department of School Law AG assess this question?
Managing Director Peter Hofmann, lawyer and educator, teaches school law at the University of St. Gallen. He would find it disproportionate to fine parents in the current circumstances. "There are still many unanswered questions about the issue of corona virus and children. Now is not the time to impose severe sanctions," he says. Hofmann does not expect the authorities to punish parents who keep their children away from classes. And: "As long as parents are not convinced that safety is sufficiently guaranteed, the threat of fines is unlikely to persuade them to send their children to school again."

5. How do teachers regard the planned school opening?
Dagmar Rösler, President of the Swiss Teachers' Association(Dachverband der Schweizer Lehrerinnen und Lehrer), says "The reopening of the schools is a matter of concern for many teachers who belong to the risk group." This applies in particular to people with pre-existing conditions, but also to educators who have continued to teach despite reaching retirement age. Rösler calls for a protection concept to be developed in inter-cantonal cooperation that will take account of the reality in the classrooms and that can be implemented in practice. Samuel Rohrbach, President of the Association of Teachers in Western Switzerland (Westschweizer Lehrerverband), believes that opening schools is only realistic if the safety measures can be complied with. But he says: "How the social distance rules are to be observed with 20 students in one classroom is a great mystery."

6. Is science in agreement on the question of school opening?
There are both sceptics and advocates among scientists regarding school opening. The latter includes Beda Stadler. The Emeritus Professor of Immunology at the University of Bern also points to the findings of the studies that are available so far, which state that the course of the disease in children is mild. For Stadler, however, it is clear that children and teachers with pre-existing health conditions must stay at home. The protection of the risk groups is sufficient to protect hospitals from becoming overburdened, and this has been demonstrated by the course of the contagion so far. Stadler regards the reopening of schools to be an important step towards achieving herd immunity. If the contagion curve continues to be as flat as it is with the stricter measures applied, however, this would otherwise take three years. But the at-risk individuals and the elderly cannot be isolated for so long.