| 17 April 2024, Wednesday |

COVID-19 pushing us to breaking point, French headteacher says

French headteacher Laurence Coureul has spent the COVID-19 pandemic working long hours trying to keep her school running despite pupils and staff contracting the virus, but with infections now rising again, she feels she’s reaching her limit.

“The teams are getting exhausted,” she said of her staff at the Joan of Arc junior school in Saint-Maur-des-Fosses, a southern suburb of Paris, where this week another 2 classes were ordered home because some pupils got infected with the virus.

“Getting by day-by-day cannot go on for a long time. At a certain point, one needs to make the tough decisions,” said the 48-year-old headteacher. “If we need to shut down, we need to do it soon.”

The cabinet of French President Emmanuel Macron has made it a point of pride that – unlike many other countries – France has not closed its schools through most of the global pandemic.

Officials say they are doing everything in their power so schools can stay open safely, including rolling out testing and vaccines.

But Macron’s policy is being severely tested. According to official data released on March 25, the number of positive cases among people under 18 was up 28% week-on-week.

The education wing of the CGT trade union said of the impact of COVID-19: “It’s a catastrophe.” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Wednesday the city’s schools should close.

Staff at the Eugene Delacroix High School in Drancy, on the northern edge of Paris, have asked for the school to be shut.

The local teacher’s union said the deaths of 20 parents of pupils at the school have been linked to the coronavirus.

Jenoshan Easwarakumar, a 16-year-old pupil, said his class has been in quarantine five times. “For us, the only answer is to close the school,” he added.

  • Reuters