The resumption of the coronavirus epidemic has prompted the prefect of Reunion to partially confine the island since July 31. A situation that did not however delay the start of the school year: students from Reunion traditionally return to class around mid-August, at the end of the southern winter holidays.

This Monday, it is therefore masks on the face and school bags on the back, that dozens of children were waiting in front of the gate of an elementary school in Port, west of Reunion.

Masked re-entry

“This time we have something more” in the school supplies, a father amuses himself by showing a packet of masks, inserted between two notebooks.

His daughter Cindy, 6, who is entering first grade, does not seem particularly concerned. “All my girlfriends are in my class” she rejoices behind her pristine white mask.

Mixed parents

No particular concern for some parents either. “In any case, we don’t have much choice, the children have to go back to school”, a mother resigns herself.

The feeling is more mixed for others. “It must be said that we are a little afraid. We are told that the children do not risk much, but we never know. And then they can infect us, the grandparents”, emphasizes a grandmother who came to accompany her two grandsons, “because the parents work”.

Unions opposed to back to school

This year, the resumption of classes was almost delayed. Several National Education unions have asked for it to be postponed for a week to allow “to better organize themselves in the face of the resurgence of the epidemic”.

The arrival of the Delta variant, identified on the island for the first time at the end of June, quickly caused contamination records. On August 12, the incidence rate was 385 per 100,000 inhabitants, pushing the intensive care unit of the CHU to the brink of saturation.

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But the unions did not win their case and the start date was maintained. The call to strike launched as a result was hardly followed, according to the rectorate.

Classroom isolation and closure

A “strict” procedure has been put in place. In the event of a report of a case of Covid in a nursery or elementary school, the entire class will be closed and the education provided at a distance.

As for college and high school, classes will remain open in the event of a report, and only students positive for the virus and those who have had risky contacts, will be isolated.