A photo from a French school showed young children playing within the confines of boxes drawn with chalk in an effort to maintain social distancing on the first day of classes for preschools and elementary schools across the country.
A French reporter tweeted a series of photos Tuesday showing children at a preschool in Tourcoing, a city on the French-Belgian border, sitting apart in a classroom and playing within squares drawn on a playground.
The reporter, Lionel Top, said it was a “very strange, even disturbing atmosphere.”
“The children are coming back today (a small part of them rather). Very strange, even disturbing atmosphere,” he said in a tweet translated from French.
“The children play, dance, jump, laugh together … but from this square,” he said in a follow-up post. “From what we’ve seen, they don’t see it as a punishment.”
The school openings come as France has begun easing some home confinement orders. Only preschools and elementary schools are allowed to resume in-person instruction, with classes capped at 10 students. Classes with older students are capped at 15.
Parents are not compelled to bring their children to school, as fears of the coronavirus have not fully subsided. Children who remain home can receive their lessons in the same manner they have during the nationwide lockdown.
A target date for high schools has not been set.
As of Wednesday, France reported 174,184 COVID-19 cases, including more than 27,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.