France kept classrooms open 'at all costs.' Some say the price was too high

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Grace was full of hope as she entered the final stretch of high school. The 16-year-old was two years away from graduating, and she wanted to make her parents proud -- especially her father.
Paris (CNN)

"I told him I loved him, and I would always do my best," Grace said.

This would be the last promise she ever made to her father, as he lay intubated in an ICU unit for Covid-19 patients. He died the next day, on April 9 of last year, at the peak of the first wave in France.

Grace's world was shattered. She told CNN she dreaded going back to school in Seine-Saint-Denis, a suburb northeast of Paris that was hit hard by the pandemic, last September.

When she returned, it was still the school she remembered. But for Grace -- who did not want her last name published to protect her family -- nothing was the same.

She worried the other students would treat her differently, and was surprised when one of her classmates confided in her that she too had lost her father to Covid-19.

In all, at least 20 students from her high school, Eugene Delacroix, in nearby Drancy, lost a relative to the virus in 2020, according to the town hall.

Nothing suggests these deaths were caused by infections at the school. But CNN has spoken with students at Eugene Delacroix who say they share a common burden: The fear of bringing Covid-19 home and infecting a loved one.

Eugene Delacroix high school in Drancy, a suburb northeast of Paris, where at least 20 pupils have lost a relative to Covid-19.

Open schools policy

Aside from a brief closure near the start of the pandemic, France has made its open schools policy a point of pride in the name of both reopening the economy and delivering a social service, with some parents relying on school meals to feed their children.

The government's stated conviction is that the benefits of opening schools far outweigh the cost.

due to rising infections. "Let's not forget what makes us proud. No other country in the European Union has left its schools open as much as France has," France's European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, tweeted this past March , a day before Italy shuttered its schools againdue to rising infections.

France…
Saskya Vandoorne, CNN
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