Fear of silent infection


Sou are angry, but they are not particularly numerous: According to the police, almost 300 Frankfurt schoolchildren walked from the municipal health department to the Römer on Monday morning in a protest march. They shouted “Cold, colder, classroom!” And “Change model, and fast!”. With the campaign, the students wanted to protest against “too lax corona measures” in schools, as the 18-year-old student representative of the Elisabeth School Max Boran said. You feel left out. While elsewhere the hygiene distance to one another is very carefully observed, in the classrooms it is hardly possible to take the necessary safety precautions so that the students can safely participate in the lessons.

Student representatives from initially six Frankfurt high schools had called for the demonstration. Two schools then withdrew because not all of the students supported the cause, as 18-year-old high school graduate Nassira Benguerich reported. The student representative of the Neue Gymnasiale Oberstufe in Bockenheim had announced the demonstration. On the Römerberg, she complained to the applause of her classmates how the city was dealing with the pandemic in schools. In the morning, buses and trains are overcrowded because classes in Frankfurt’s 420 schools don’t start with a delay. Up to 30 students are sitting in classrooms without being able to maintain the necessary safety distances. In addition, it is no longer mandatory to specify all contact persons of an infected student. The pupils are particularly concerned about the so-called silent infection, because it could unwittingly infect family members.

Younger students also took part in the demonstration, including Anh Nguyen and Alexandra Shamskaya. Together with their twelve-year-old classmate Stella Ahl, the two thirteen-year-olds came to protest against the cold classrooms. It’s just too cool to study. Almost all of the students who took part in the demonstration also asked for so-called alternating lessons: while one group is trained for a week, the other group is supposed to do work at home. Then there is a change.

Many are insecure

For their participation in the demonstration, the students must expect unexcused absences. Sebastian Guttmann, Chairman of the Frankfurt Education and Science Union, thinks that’s wrong. “This is a real-life applied political lesson,” he said on the sidelines of the meeting. He supports the cause of the students. Many of them are insecure. While everything else would be restricted, the students would have to sit and study in crowded classrooms.

Schools whose student representatives had threatened in writing last week with a strike if hybrid or alternating classes were not introduced were normal on Monday morning. “Everything is the same at school, and I didn’t notice that someone was missing,” said Stefan Neureiter, director of the Elisabeth School in Westend. He had spoken to the students about the strike threat made by representatives of six schools and the town council. The students were not at all clear what alternating and distance learning exactly meant – and that a school could not just introduce this, but had to apply to the state education authority first.

“At the moment we don’t notice anything at all,” said Christiane Rogler, the director of the drawing school, on Monday morning. You could not say how many students went to the action at the health department. According to your information, the initiative went back to students from the Neue Gymnasiale Oberstufe who had “cross-contacts” with high school students from the drawing school. The strike was not approved, said Rogler. “These are unexcused absenteeism.” She too can understand the pupils’ desire to be heard. But she would have found it more sensible if the student representatives had sought a conversation with the health department.

The Frankfurt authority still does not see schools and daycare centers as drivers of infection. In “the vast majority of cases”, infections of children and adolescents would “certainly not take place in school or daycare”. The previous database shows that. From October 19 to November 29, corona infections were reported to the office in 1213 children and adolescents from 0 to 17 years of age – out of a total of 35,000 daycare children and 62,000 schoolchildren.

Of more than 1000 tests of children in whose day care center there had been corona cases, only 0.5 percent were positive, the authority said. Of 850 tests in schoolchildren since September 14, 4.5 percent were positive; these come from a few schools, especially vocational schools. Since this week and until the end of January, an alternating model of face-to-face and distance teaching has been in effect at these – with the exception of vocational high schools and technical colleges.

Health department head Stefan Majer (Die Grünen) said on Monday that a “longer-term change of lessons” must be carefully considered. “For children from disadvantaged backgrounds or from conflict-ridden families in particular, classroom support and care in schools is extremely important.”

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