The first sign that something was wrong at the lone school in the tiny Belgian hamlet of Sibret was when a teacher began to feel sick not long after classes resumed this month. She tested positive for the coronavirus. Within days, 27 students and five other teachers also tested positive.
Now the village of 800 in Belgium’s rural southeast corner has become one of the latest data points in a complicated, angst-ridden experiment for communities around the world: How much does in-person schooling contribute to the spread of the virus?
The answer, experts are saying in Europe after several weeks back in classrooms, is that it’s rare for children to spread the virus within the walls of a school, but not unheard of. Not every country can point to a school where the coronavirus seems to have spread. And even where there are such schools, including in Belgium, Norway and Germany, such outbreaks typically remain countable on a single hand — affecting a fraction of a percentage point of the millions of students and teachers in session across the continent.