La rentrée: Rules for schools and coronavirus cases

The French government has published advice on what will happen if someone at school, whether a pupil or member of staff, tests positive for the virus.

1 September 2020
Millions of children returned to school today in France where they will have to respect new safety measures related to coronavirus
By Thomas Brent

Today (September 1) 12.4 million students all around France return to school after a long break due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

This year’s return-to-school has a very different look to it with new rules in place to stop the spread of the virus, including mandatory masks, social distancing and extra hand washing. 

There are also guidelines in place in case anyone at the school, including students, shows symptoms of the virus or test positive for it.  

If a student is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (fever, sore head, coughing), they should put on a mask and be immediately isolated, under the supervision of an adult who should also wear a mask. The pupil’s mask can be provided by the school if they do not have one. 

Parents or legal guardians will be quickly contacted by the school and asked to collect the student. The student will then have to be seen by a doctor before they are allowed to return to school. 

If there is a positive case confirmed at a school, adult or student, then there are further protocols to follow, an official government document published in March by the ministry of national education (Ministère de l'Éducation nationale, de la jeunesse et des sports) states. 

All floors and surfaces in the school must be cleaned thoroughly and all rooms must be ventilated immediately. Any waste produced by the contaminated person should be disposed of in a safe manner. 

If this cleaning cannot be carried out within a day, then another establishment may have to be found to accommodate the students and teachers until it is safe to return to the school. 

The government has also asked parents to be vigilant and not send their children to school if they are displaying symptoms of coronavirus. 

Any of these safety measures can be changed if the situation requires. 

Hydroalcoholic gel risk

Between May 11 and August 24 2020, there have been 63 cases recorded of children, with an average age of four, getting hydroalcoholic gel in their eyes, the Ministère de la Santé et l'Agence nationale de Sécurité Sanitaire de l’Alimentation, de l’Environnement et du Travail (Anses), stated in a press release.

Three-quarters of the recorded incidents occurred "in a shop or shopping centre", where the gel dispensers provided "are often at eye level with young children" and "can be perceived as a game”, the ministry explained. 

In most cases, the children affected suffer from redness, pain or inflammation of the eye or eyelid. 

The ministry is advising adults not to let children play with the gel and to supervise them when they use the gel. 

If a child does get the gel in their eye, they should rinse their eye with water for at least 15 minutes. 

Macron’s plea to students

President Emmanuel Macron yesterday called for students to act responsibly in face of the ongoing threat of coronavirus. 

"It's a bit of a unusual return to school as the virus is still there. I'm counting on you from tomorrow morning to apply the barrier gestures, wearing the mask and everything else. And also to follow what your teachers will tell you", he said in a video published on his official Instagram account on Monday evening. 

The president also tweeted this morning: “School is an opportunity, it brings us together. The challenges of this new school year are many, but we are finally all together! Let's show the same responsibility as we have done over the last few months. Have a good start to the new school year!”

Jean-Michel Blanquer, the education minister, also tweeted out his wishes for a good return-to-school. 

“With the joy of learning and being together today. The health context makes us vigilant. More than ever, we are aware that school is precious. It is for our common good.

Have a good start to the new school year!”

Read more about la rentrée:

French schools re-start in September with Covid-19 rules

France hits 700,000 tests - but rentrée ‘relaunch’ delayed

La rentrée: will the French state provide masks for my kids?

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