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Posted on 28 August 2020

Message from the APEEE President concerning APEEE Services

Dear Parents
I hope everyone had a good break and were able to find some time or place to relax despite
the Coronavirus situation.
I am writing to give you a quick update on the APEEE and the actions we are taking and
have taken concerning Coronavirus. I would also like to update you on how our Services will
be operating for the start of the new school year (see final paragraph).
There are many different views amongst the parent community as to how the school should
be organized during this time, with some highlighting the health risks and advocating online
lessons only while others raising the pedagogical and developmental impacts, so wanting the
school to reopen as much as possible. There are also differences of views between parents
of children in Maternelle, Primary, Secondary and specifically the BAC cycle because of the
different needs of pupils at these stages. This breadth of views is also represented within the
Board itself and has given rise to much debate. We acknowledge that different levels may
need different approaches. The position the APEEE has adopted therefore has been to
present the range of views fairly, but leaving the decision to the school authorities and
focusing on ensuring that whatever the scenario, as much is done as possible to mitigate the
negative consequences of school closure for pupils, to support vulnerable individuals and to
encourage continuous improvements in the digital/remote learning approach.
This has been an extremely challenging time for all of us; parents, pupils, teachers,
management and also the APEEE. While we are not in the driving seat with regard to the
operation of the school as such, we have had to make dramatic changes to our own
operations at short notice, first in shutting down our Transport, Canteen and After-school
activity services, and then starting our Services up again when partial schooling returned.
This has all been in an environment when many factors were unknown, the situation and
Belgian rules were constantly evolving, and our suppliers, especially our bus companies,
were themselves under considerable financial pressure. Nevertheless we have managed to
ensure our finances remain secure, our staff looked after and that we were able to relaunch
our bus service with full protective measures as of June. Where possible we have reimbursed
money to parents. There has been no playbook to follow so this has involved a great deal of
thinking and planning by the APEEE Board and our Services staff, involving many hours work
behind the scenes.
I would like to thank especially Anja Galle and her team in the APEEE offices for the fantastic
job they have done over this period – with huge dedication and commitment, working with
the APEEE Board members to find solutions and make things happen. We truly have a great
team in place who have risen to this occasion spectacularly.

 

Secondly, on the pedagogical side we have worked closely with the school management on a
whole range of issues, including crisis response, preparing for remote teaching ahead of the
curve, communications to parents and managing various corona related risks. Our distance
learning team have been heavily involved in the Taskforce of the Office of the Secretary
General, developing a common approach for distance and blended learning across all
European schools.
We have throughout coordinated closely with the other Brussels schools APEEEs, so that
where possible we can ensure common approaches. The School Directors have been doing
likewise. And through Interparents there has been a lot of good work in sharing and
coordinating across the entire European School community. It has of course not been perfect
but the net result has been a joined-up approach including a great deal of sharing of
learnings, which has got us through the first part of the crisis.
A particular thanks is owed to our school Directors who have done so much to ensure our
school stayed afloat. Throughout they have been fully engaged and committed to solving the
many problems the pandemic has thrown up; always ready to listen and to work with the
APEEE. In particular I would like to extend a special thanks to our new Director, Kamila
Malik, who has had to deal with this crisis at the same time as taking on the already
challenging job of running the school. Despite this she has managed to get us successfully
through this very difficult period. My impression is that Woluwe has been one of the
strongest performing schools in this respect, which I have no doubts is as a result of the
work of Kamila and the Directors and the strong team work we have developed across the
school community.
Finally I would like to thank the many outstanding APEEE Board members who have worked
so hard and so constructively to address these and other issues, putting in a great deal more
hours than are normally expected, including over weekends and late into the evening.
Coronavirus has only been part of what the Board has been doing – other areas of activity
include the plans for the new NATO site school, digital privacy, learning support, safety and
security, pedagogical developments, ensuring new parents are properly welcomed and many
other topics. It has truly felt like being part of a high performing team!
Now to the plans for the next term. You will have read in the email from Kamila Malik that
there will be a full return to school for all year levels as of 3 September, in line with the
recent decision of the Belgian government to allow this to happen. We are now working to
see how the new Belgian Coronavirus rules for schools and for transport will impact on our
Services, and will be sending out emails over the next few days with details. For now, I can
inform you that Bus services will resume for 3 September, with safety measures in place
against Covid, but open to all pupils who are signed up.

The canteen will not be able open on the 3rd of September, as we need a bit more time to
figure out how we can serve meals to all pupils given the new regulations. Our aim is to
open very shortly afterwards. That means that pupils will need to bring sandwiches for the
first few days. More details will follow shortly. For after-school activities, the programme
does not anyhow begin until 21 September, so is not affected, but I can confirm our
Surveillance/Garderie service will be operational as of Friday 4 September.
Details on all of the above will be sent out in the next few days.
Wishing everyone a great last few days of summer and looking forward to a successful
restart of schooling next week
Regards
Giles Houghton-Clarke
President, Woluwe APEEE

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