Teacher Kelly Rapport even enlisted her father Jean, a retired firefighter.

As early as October last year, the Mechelen primary school booked three coaches for the two school trips with Pelikaancars from Tielt-Winge. “After corona, our students have been looking forward to that,” says director Sofie Van Loock. Until the school found a message from the bus company in its mailbox on Wednesday evening around 7 pm. Due to contamination with Covid among drivers, the company canceled the assignment last minute.

Go Shill! tried to engage other bus companies himself, but by the end of the school year that proved to be an impossible task. “We even approached bus builder Van Hool, who showed himself to be very helpful. The company addressed its contacts,” says the director. In vain, the school trip to Pairi Daiza fell into the water. “Thursday morning we made another phone call to Planckendael, which is nearby. Fortunately, we were still welcome there,” says Sofie Van Loock.

By car to Mol

And so the school switched to plan B. Kelly Rappoort, one of the second-year teachers, even enlisted her father Jean to take children to the Mechelen zoo. “With great pleasure, on such a beautiful summer day you will not abandon your children”, says the retired firefighter.

Teacher Kelly Rapport even enlisted her father Jean, a retired firefighter. © Sven Van Haezendonck

Sabine Van de Gucht, who works at the secretariat, was at school by bicycle. “I live in Duffel and I cycled home especially to get my car,” she says. In total, the school quickly brought together ten cars to transport children to Planckendael in the Muizen sub-municipality. The director and deputy director David De Laet also got behind the wheel. “In addition, I would also like to say a word of thanks to the parents who brought our sixth-year students to Pennenzakrock in Mol by car,” says Sofie Van Loock.

Other schools join in

Two schools of Scholengroep 5, the Stassart campus of the Busleyden Atheneum and the Atheneum of Keerbergen, released their buses to get the fifth-year students to Mol. “The remarkable thing is that people of ours have seen coaches from Pelikaancars both in Planckendael and at Pennen Bagsrock,” says the director.

“That’s right, we have 25 coaches driving around and luckily we didn’t have to let them all stand still”, responds Olivier Clemens, one of the managers of Pelikaancars. The family business is very bored with the cancellation at the Mechelse school.

The children clearly appreciated the efforts of their teacher Kelly and many other volunteers.

The children clearly appreciated the efforts of their teacher Kelly and many other volunteers. © Sven Van Haezendonck

“There is a huge shortage of drivers and it is difficult to replace sick people. On the other hand, we find it irresponsible to send an infected driver on the road with a full bus of children. We have tried to shift our schedule and we have also approached subcontractors, as far as the Netherlands. Unfortunately, we had to disappoint the school”, explains Clemens.

Surprise on return

The bus company is committed to compensate the school. “Even though this is a case of force majeure and we are not obliged to do so, we still want to reimburse the school for the additional costs incurred,” says Olivier Clemens. “We have heard of that in the meantime and we appreciate that, because we couldn’t get hold of the company this morning. We can use the money to pay for the other buses and reimburse the parents for their kilometers travelled,” says director Sofie Van Loock.

The children of the zoo were able to return to the center of Mechelen with Planckendael’s bus. From the station it was a short walk to the school in the Louisestraat. “At school there was a happy meal from McDonald’s ready. In this way we were able to end this eventful day in a cheerful way”, says the director.

Seventy students eventually moved to Planckendael.

Seventy students eventually went to Planckendael. © Dirk Vertommen

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