TEMPO.CO, Amsterdam - A Dutch high school is beating online schooling by having students taking classes, starting this week, at entertainment venues, including a concert hall that has hosted legends from Rolling Stones to Adele.
“It’s so amazing to be teaching here,” said Ilse Stofmeel, economics teacher at Amsterdam’s Barlaeus Gymnasium, as she stood in the middle of Paradiso’s main concert hall. “I’ve been here for concerts and parties.” In the afternoon of Friday, March 5, the hall that can hold up to 1,500 concert goers was home to Ilse’s 11th grade economics class of some 20 teenagers, spread out at a safe distance from each other at single desks.
Like most schools around the globe, those in the Netherlands have been forced to go mostly online since the Covid-19 pandemic a year ago. On February 23, the Dutch government announced that starting in March, secondary school pupils would be allowed to have in-person learning for at least one day a week. This, of course, given that there is enough space to have social distancing among students and teachers.
Following the government’s announcement, Barlaeus – one of the Netherlands’ oldest and best-known secondary schools – took action. Taking advantage of its location in Amsterdam’s city center, the school immediately started contacting venues within the vicinity to expand its classroom capacity. “We worked non-stop for a week: calling and negotiating with the venues’ management, and preparing the spaces for lectures,” said Barlaeus deputy headmaster Margriet Bosman.
City Theater and De Kring, a club above the Palladium, at Amsterdam's Leidseplein are among the venues used as classrooms for Barlaeus students. Photo by Linawati Sidarto
Their hard work bore fruit, as all of Barlaeus’ 11th and 12th graders – almost 300 students – are able to go to class full-time starting this week at these alternate locations. Meanwhile, students at other schools are only able to have in-person classes one to three days a week. “My friends from other schools are so jealous of us,” said 11th grader Rana Abdelrahman. Barlaeus has a total of some 800 students from grade seven to 12. Students from grade seven to 10 take classes at school.
Barlaeus’ upper-class students are now taking classes at four neighboring entertainment venues: a café, a dance club, a movie theater, and a concert hall. Most famous among them is Paradiso, a legendary concert venue where top bills have included David Bowie, Prince, Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Snoop Dogg. Some tracks of the Rolling Stones’ 1995 album Stripped was recorded during the band’s two performances at the venue, housed in an old church dating from the late 19th century.
The students enjoy being at these ‘cool’ sites. “It’s quite something having my math class at Paradiso,” said 11th grader Wiske Grünwald. Entertainment locales aside, the students are just grateful to be learning offline instead of staring at a computer all day. “I wasn’t able to concentrate at all online,” said Liv del Canho, another 11th grader. Equally happy are employees at the venues. “We were forced to close our doors for so many months in the past year. It’s great to have the place filled again,” said Matteo, who has been working at Paradiso for 15 years.
The first week has passed with very few glitches in these unique ‘classrooms’, Margriet Bosman said. “There were minor things, like having the wrong cables for certain laptops. But overall, things have gone well.”