APEEE Position on a Preventative Approach to Minimise the Impact of COVID, approved 08 February 2022
The epidemiological situation in the EEB1 has been extremely challenging in the 2021-2022 school year, with almost double the number of cases in the first four months as in the whole of the 2020-2021 school year. There have been repeated large outbreaks, forcing increased mitigation measures, mass quarantines, and class/cycle closures. EEB1 remains particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks due to:
The APEEE believes there is a strong need to apply preventative measures to reduce the risk of outbreaks. We favour the application of a preventative approach, implementing best practice recommendations from the Belgian authorities as well as best practice from other European Schools.
The following are the APEEE Communications on COVID-19 from March 2020 to July 2021, with related APEEE statements and background documents.
|Dear EEBI Parents,
For the last weeks we have focused on local COVID arrangements primarily inasmuch as they relate to the end-of-year arrangements. Longer-term measures are not yet being discussed in the school bodies.
APEEE Fights Proposed 2021 End-of-Year Half-Day Schedule
On 20 April, the APEEE President sent an open letter to the EEBI Director expressing concerns about the proposed half-days of school planned for end June and early July. This letter was also forwarded by the EEBII APEEE to their director with the EEBIII APEEE writing a similar letter. As the letter achieved no result, the APEEE Board voted on 12 May to send two follow-up letters on the same issue, one letter to the Secretary-General of the European Schools and another letter to the Commission’s Director-General of HR and Security; these were promptly endorsed by the EEBII APEEE.
A response from Secretary-General Giancarlo Marcheggiano was received on 15 June, explaining the rationale behind the decision to cut the schedule and the extraordinary circumstances which warranted longer class councils. The Secretary-General was of the view that this decision lies within the autonomy of the School Directors, given the pandemic situation. On 21 June, we received a response from Director-General Gertrud Ingestad, in which she shared the concerns of the APEEEs about the legality of the measures proposed and their impact on parents and students. The issue was likewise raised in a 28 May letter sent from the Chair of the European Parliament CULT Committee Sabine Verheyen to the Secretary-General in follow up to the February 2021 CULT Committee session on the European Schools. The letter asked the Secretary-General and the Directors of the Brussels-based European Schools to reconsider this decision, “which in the current context sends the wrong message to pupils, parents and the outside world alike.”
Unfortuntely, despite the strong support of colleagues in the European institutions, the schedule was rolled out as planned.
End-of-Year Schedule for S7 Students
In addition to this, S7 parents were disappointed to learn that they would not be permitted to attend the Proclamation Ceremony this year. Despite a letter written by S7 class representatives on 23 June asking the direction to reconsider the decision, the event was held for the second year in a row without the live presence of parents. Still, parents and extended families were able to enjoy the ceremony live-streamed, and it was held outside for the first time as a precaution against COVID.
The document provides an overview of TEAMS for Education (as currently configured for our school) and gives some recommendations for how the tool should be used in different scenarios. It is not intended to be prescriptive—-at least not yet—-but it is hoped that it may serve to harmonise practice within the secondary programme. Teachers are still concerned that attempts to standardise practice may be detrimental to their working methods.
The APEEE continues to push for the management to provide better quality assurance for distance learning, as there are still problems with teachers scheduling and showing up to online courses. Parents likewise remain concerned about the educational offer to quarantined students and to classes with vulnerable teachers. The management is thus far not receptive to these concerns. They have responded better to worries about an over-abundance of screentime, especially among younger secondary students.
Appreciation for our Hard-Working EEBI Medical Team
Through the entire period, the APEEE has continued to attend the so-called mini-SAC (“School Advisory Council”) meetings organised by the direction on a more or less biweekly basis. These were attended by representatives of all stakeholders including also the APEEE Services. We put our ideas in when possible, though consultation proved difficult as these meetings did not have a fixed agenda or documentation provided.
We have also continued to receive written weekly COVID updates from our local Commission expert, Santiago Calvo-Ramos, with a strong focus on preventative measures such as ventilation, masks and vaccination. These provide practical advice that can be followed up with the school in different forums. The APEEE Board has now approved inclusion of these weekly updates on the APEEE’s COVID-19 Update page.
|Dear EEBI Parents,
In recent months, the school has settled into a rhythm around corona. The primary and S7 have been in situ with a few notable breaks after holiday periods. S1-S6 have been in rotation more or less assuring that each child is in situ 50% of the time; secondary is set to go back to school full time in the coming weeks if all goes well. Buses are running, but the canteen is open for nursery only. Eureka has found new ways to get children back their lost items. Distancing, masking and hygiene measures have become routine in the school community, and we have learned a lot about testing, contact tracing (don’t forget about: coronalert.be), quarantine and now vaccines.
Nevertheless, the new variants are proving a real challenge, despite our best efforts and the real progress we are making. The more contagious “UK” variant is now the dominant strain and the “Brazilian” variant, which is associated with greater illness severity, is now gaining ground. Before the Easter Break, we saw the shut down of both our primary campuses as the virus made its way into our P4-P5 classrooms. Masks were required for children in these levels, and as from 21 May they will be "strongly recommended". There is still concern as we have seen that the new variants can spread much more quickly than previously; measures that were previously effective in curbing the spread of the virus may now be insufficient. The process of vaccinating our teachers has seen real setbacks and quick tests are not yet cleared for use.
The school is now asking that secondary students reDOUBLE their efforts:
With important end-of-year exams on the horizon, now is not the time to let our guards down.
Ventilation and CO2 Meters: The APEEE has continued to receive a weekly COVID-19 Update on our school from Commission Health Economist and EEBI parent: Santiago Calvo-Ramos. In particular, we have benefitted from early warning about the importance of air circulation to prevent spread. We raised the management’s attention to this issue and have been pleased to learn of the arrival of a number of CO2 meters for use on both sites. The number is still relatively small, 10 or so altogether, but they are being rotated around classrooms and used to test spaces where there is particular concern or when teachers specifically request. This is a very positive development that will reduce the possibility of airborne contagion within the classrooms. The APEEE is currently querying whether the methodology used is in line with the standards recommended by the Belgian authorities.
The school is also moving from a periodic ventilating of rooms (mainly through opening and closing windows) to ensuring that rooms are ventilated all the time (with windows and doors standing open). This has been possible with the onset of warmer weather. There have also been ventilators installed in some rooms and new windows in others, e.g. DaVinci basement. We will continue to see how these measures can be supported, improved and eventually carried over into next year as we go into the next phase.
Looking forward... it remains unclear when vaccinations will be safely distributed to students, although we are beginning to understand more what the next steps may be:
We are thus looking at a gradually improving situation that will allow our school to regain normality step by step over the rest of 2021, assuming that there is no spread of new variants less susceptible to vaccines. In the meantime, we continue to work to improve the distance learning offer. We have seen real progress over the last half year, but there is still no consistent approach, particularly in the secondary.
In closing, we look forward to the coming months of sun and a slow opening-up of the school and of our lives. We hope to proceed together, always with due caution, but already we do begin to see a light at the end of a very long tunnel.
|Dear EEBI Parents,
We know that many of you are beginning to feel weary after a very long year, and we wanted to take a moment to thank you for your hard work and forbearance over these months. Nevertheless, in recent conversations with the school management, we have been made aware that since the return to school after the long break, students have begun to neglect the basic hygiene and distancing measures that have been in place from last year.
Our individual actions and common effort ensure the safety of our children, their teachers and of the whole school community. We would therefore like to take this opportunity to remind you of the practices that we should all continue to follow:
We hope that by working together as partners with the school management and staff, the APEEE Services and the Belgian authorities, we can continue to keep the school safe for our children and our community.
|Dear EEBI Parents,
In the period from mid-October to mid-December, the COVID-19 situation in Belgium and at EEBI fluctuated and evolved. The APEEE has followed developments closely within the framework of our monthly meetings, and has attempted to represent as far as possible the position of EEBI parents at each juncture. It has not always been easy to reach a consensus between the wishes and needs of parents across sites, levels, sections, and family situations, but we have endeavoured to find common ground whenever possible.
Social Distancing and Hygiene
On 29 October we initiated discussions with the school on the implementation of the latest FWB regulations followed up by a bilateral meeting between the APEEE Bureau and the Director on 6 November. During this period, the APEEE Board has also benefitted from a weekly written analysis from Santiago Calvo Ramos, a parent working as a health economist on COVID-19 for the Commission.
We believe that as parents, it is important to discuss with our children what we can do to further reduce the risk of infection—ensuring that our kids play it safe by keeping to the distancing, mask and hygiene rules. The APEEE continues to support the school in recommending the use of the Belgian Coronalert App (https://coronalert.be/fr/ or https://coronalert.be/en/) by all students already toting a mobile phone.
Pedagogical Continuity and Distance Learning
(See: Pedagogical Continuity and Distance Learning – based on a statement approved by the APEEE Board on 8 December)
Otherwise, feedback received from class parents in both cycles and sites has been broadly positive about developments in the distance education programme over the recent period, though there remains a strong belief that distance education cannot meet the needs of the youngest children and their families. In October, the school installed classroom cameras across both campuses (as well as smart boards at Berkendael) to support distance teaching and learning, a measure generally applauded by teachers and parents. And we have seen needed investment in teacher training, with a dedicated TEAMS training at the November pedagogical day and an APEEE-funded peer-training project on the TEAMS and OneNote for secondary science teachers.
Finally, we have been heartened by two recent developments. The first is the approval of a European School Distance Teaching and Learning Policy at the December 2020 Board of Governors. This policy sets basic standards for distance learning which apply to all European Schools, thereby ensuring equal treatment for students across the system. The second is the appearance from the Uccle primary direction of distance learning guidelines, which can be considered the first piece of a school-wide strategy.
As always, parents should not hesitate to get in contact with your class or section representatives if your have any questions or problems (see: Parent Representatives) or you may also contact the APEEE Secretariat at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The EEBI Administrative Board will take place on 25 January, and this will be a good opportunity to take stock of the school's longer-term strategy on COVID-19.
In the meantime, we continue to raise parent concerns on the following pedagogical issues:
Several of these, and in particular developments on the 2021 Baccalaureate, were treated in the memorandum sent by the Secretary General's Office in the wake of the December Board of Governors' Meeting. A good cross section of current issues of importance to parents can also be found in the open questions posed to the direction at the APEEE General Assembly. In addition, please find the latest COVID-19 pandemic information received from the school and FWB at: COVID-19 Update.
EEBI Uccle Primary: Consignes et recommandations pour différents scénarios / Guidelines and Recommendations for different scenarios (parent version; 15 December 2020) - FR / EN
|Dear EEBI Parents,
The APEEE continues to receive questions from parents, particularly in the primary. Below we endeavour to address the full range of issues raised. Do not hesitate to contact our Secretariat with any questions not answered at: email@example.com
Social Distancing and Hygiene, “Bubbling”, Contact Tracing and Quarantine:
The director is also worried that communication from the APEEE to parents on these issues could lead to further confusion, so we have been asked to minimise this.
It is important to highlight that the APEEE/Secretariat is not receiving any information from the school on identified cases, quarantined classes or other measures. We receive this information either from individual parents or in the weekly reports sent to all parents. Note: The APEEE Services has more regular communication with the school on these matters related to contact tracing.
Given the rising case count, the APEEE is urging a stronger “Culture of Prevention” at the school. This would go beyond numbers of soap dispensers and paper towels, to instilling habits and routines in the classroom and among the pupils in their break period, and could include inter alia:
Beyond this, APEEE has recently become concerned about the situation of pupils with “vulnerable family members”. INTERPARENTS has produced a paper on this to be presented at the system-level Joint Teaching Committee next week. (see below)
The next formal moment to raise these issues is at the first Uccle Safety and Hygiene Meeting on Tuesday, 20 October. We encourage parents to write your section representatives with any feedback. (See: Parent Representatives)
For teachers available from home, the school has put in place a system of distance teaching in at least some cases. In these cases,
For students available from home, we have not yet seen a coherent set of distance learning measures put in place. In secondary, there are some examples of teachers streaming classes, even accepting equipment from students when needed, but the school is hesitant to make a policy on this. In addition, there are continued, though not well-specified, fears about GDPR. Nevertheless, cameras should be arriving in bulk in the coming days (if not already), and with their installation in classes, we would hope to see a clearer practice established.
Parents believe that kids at home for more than a few days should be assured of a regular educational programme. The APEEE and parent reps in the Education Council have continued to ask for:
INTERPARENTS has also produced a paper on this to be presented at the system-level Joint Teaching Committee next week. (see below)
Communication and Transparency:
In the meantime, the APEEE has provided a collection of information received from the school as well as a running tally of EEBI cases and other documentation related to the COVID-19 pandemic at: COVID-19 Update
|Dear EEBI Parents,
As every year, we have approached the rentrée with hope and expectation, but this Autumn these feelings may have been coupled with anxiety for families who have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak — whether returning from (or to) a red zone; concerned about a vulnerable family member; or simply unsure about how the education, school and work life will proceed under this new reality.
Since the return from break, we have received messages from some of you on the measures taken by the school in response to COVID-19. When possible, we have relayed your advice and concerns to the school, and we were happy to receive a series of communications to all parents between 28 August and 7 September, which have allayed most of our deepest worries. Please note, communications from the school are stored in your sms accounts for easy viewing. We have also made available a collection of COVID communications from the school and APEEE Services as well as recent COVID-19 regulations from the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles and other interesting resources at: COVID-19 Update.
As we move forward, we will keep passing your questions, ideas and concerns to the school management, and in particular will continue to seek:
If you have any concerns about measures put in place in response to COVID-19, do not hesitate to contact your Class or Section Representatives. (See: Parent Representatives)
And as always please do not hesitate to contact the APEEE or APEEE Services with any questions:
A very warm welcome back!
|Dear EEBI Parents,
As we know, the school will undertake a partial reopening in June. More specifically,
(Note: you can find the full letter from the Direction as well as all official communications from the School and Central Office stored in your SMS/myschoolmanagement account for reference.) The option chosen by the school direction will allow parents to send their children back to the school sites on a voluntary basis for a few days and some activities before summer. Distance schooling will remain the norm for most, if not all pedagogical content. In the coming weeks, the APEEE will concentrate on assisting the school management in detailing their programme for June and perhaps more importantly in preparing for the return to school after summer.
In the meantime, many parents still have pending concerns regarding measures taken (or not yet taken) in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the disruption in the school programme. Here below, see the status of issues of common concern to EEBI parents:
Cancelled S7 Programme and Trips:
Prospects for Student Mobility, Work Experience and Trips:
S4-S6 B Marks: After the publication of the Board of Governors’ decision on 2020 end-of-year evaluation of European School students, S4-S6 families raised concerns about the duplication of first semester B marks in the second semester reports and the potential impact on student motivation and university admissions.
2020 Baccalaureate: The final formula for the Baccalaureate was not determined by the Board of Governors (BoG) during their 15-17 April meeting but is currently the subject of a written procedure to that body. The key issues at stake are the ponderance of A and B semester marks in the final mark for each course and the relative weighting of courses in the final mark. The APEEE will inform you of the results when these are known, sometime after 24 May.
Remote Learning Quality: In closing, given that the status quo will continue at least through June, the APEEE has committed to supporting families that still have concerns about the quality of the EEBI distance education regime.
If you have concerns, and for whatever reason the school's complaints procedure (see 18 March message below) does not meet your needs, we urge you to be in touch with your class and section representatives--or, for Berkendael families, with the Berkendael Working Group--as well as with APEEE's Remote Learning Feedback Group.
We will also continue to urge the school to ensure that distance teaching meets a minimum standard for all courses.
As always please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions:
We wish you and your family healthy and peaceful end of year.
|Dear EEBI Parents,
As noted in the message above, the APEEE Services will be closed without children in the school to care for, but they will be available by email through the contact address of each Service. They will treat all problems related to the unforeseen disruption after the return to school.
The APEEE will try to carry on as we can in a reduced capacity, carrying out much of our work via email or phone and holding mandatory meetings remotely if needed. Like the School, the APEEE has been quite overwhelmed by the deluge of communication over the last weeks. We have tried to respond as best we could to all concerns and to direct people to the right place. We have also greatly appreciated the School Management’s continuous communication and assurances given to families over this difficult period as well as a willingness to take parent feedback into account in their evolving response.
Over the recent period, concerns have related primarily to:
PLEASE NOTE: if parents have any concerns—either technical or pedagogical—about the remote learning being implemented in their classes, we ask them to turn to the school first. We are hoping that the school is providing any needed technical support for teachers, parents and students. If there are pedagogical problems or concerns about the programme of a particular teacher, the school suggests that parents should go through the regular reporting structure—raise problems with teacher, escalate to advisor/deputy director…and so on. If parents cannot find answers to their problem using the normal channels, then the APEEE is of course happy to step in and support.
Related to this, the APEEE will be collecting feedback, both positive and negative, from parents of primary and secondary on their experiences with remote learning. We will share and analyse this feedback with the other three Brussels APEEEs and INTERPARENTS as part of a larger effort to learn and improve as we go. We ask parents to provide feedback through their class and section representatives (or, for Berkendael families, via the Berkendael Working Group), who can collate this and forward to the APEEE’s four-members Remote Learning Feedback Group.
As always please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions:
|Dear EEBI Parents,
We hereby wish to inform you about what the APEEE and APEEE Services have done and plan to do in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
First and foremost, we hope that you have all read by now the several communications sent by the School and Central Office of the European Schools. You can find these at: https://www.eursc.eu/en/Office/news or http://www.eeb1.com/en/communication-from-the-office-of-the-secretary-general-regarding-the-outbreak-of-covid-19-disease/ (and in your SMS accounts). It is important that parents keep apprised of the latest warnings given by the school and Central Office and particularly any changes in the red zones as they might affect their families.
The APEEE and APEEE Services have been working from our side, each in our own capacity, to address the situation.
APEEE Services' managers have made sure to vet their staff and suppliers/contractors according to the latest recommendations of the Central Office. They will continue to monitor the situation and keep close communication with suppliers/contractors and staff in the canteen, transport, extracurricular activities and back office to make sure they remain in full compliance with recommendations as these evolve.
For our part, the APEEE is also monitoring our team, but perhaps more importantly, we have done our best to compile and collate parent concerns as they are sent to us and to forward these to the school, Central Office and INTERPARENTS. We also continue to work closely with the school management, INTERPARENTS and the other Brussels schools to make sure that we are kept apprised of all the latest developments. Finally, we will work to make sure that parents’ concerns continue to be raised and addressed as the situation evolves.
From your side, we ask that parents remain patient with school management. As they remain focused on day-to-day developments and circulation of the latest information to the school community at large, individual letters and requests may not be answered immediately.
The APEEE will refrain from sending communications on COVID-19 directly to all parents as we feel that this might create confusion. But please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions: