The schools open again. However, there is not just one answer to the questions of when, how and for whom – there are sixteen. Only one hope unites them all: that schools won’t have to close again immediately.
Schools will reopen in many places on Monday. Experts urge caution and clear rules – but there is great disagreement between the countries about the “how”. When can how many students come? With or without a mask? And does the compulsory attendance actually apply? Each state makes its own rules. Instead of a safe start to school, the main threat is safe chaos.
The prime ministers prevailed: Chancellor Angela Merkel would have liked to have opened on March 1st. On February 22nd, classes in school will start again for many German primary school students – with a few exceptions: in Bremen the schools have never been closed, in Lower Saxony they have been open again for a long time, in Saxony since last Monday. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania wants to wait two days longer, Hamburg and Saxony-Anhalt even until March.
Even with the date it becomes clear: Although schools became one of the most important topics in the pandemic, the federal states are unable to agree on a uniform line.
It doesn’t look much better when it comes to the regulation of face-to-face operations: in most countries, parents can decide whether their children should go to school. Not so in Bavaria, Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. Which grade levels return also differs from country to country. You can read here which rules apply in your state.
Scientific recommendation is not implemented
The re is a scientifically based guideline on which, among others, the German Societies for Epidemiology, for Child and Adolescent Medicine and for Pediatric Infectious Diseases, as well as the Robert Koch Institute, representatives of parents and students and some health authorities have contributed. This does not expressly say how the school openings are to be assessed, but recommends measures for safe school operation.
The se include the reduction in the number of students present and the requirement to wear a mask.
Federal Minister of Education Anja Karliczek (CDU) described this guideline as “a great help”, as it could be used to give those responsible “an evidence-based recommendation for action supported by a broad group”. But: those responsible in the federal states do not always adhere to them with their measures.
Rapid tests yes, test strategy no
The feasibility is in question. Pediatric intensive care physician Florian Hoffman from Dr. von Haunersche Children’s Hospital in Munich said in the t-online interview: “Mr. Spahn promised these tests, but we simply don’t have the test capacities.” As of March, the Minister of Health had promised free rapid tests for everyone, and lay self-tests should also be allowed in March.
The widespread use of these rapid tests must now be prepared so that they can be used immediately if they are approved and available”.
But most federal states have not yet announced a test strategy. In Bremen, school staff should be able to be tested twice a week in the future. In Berlin, teachers and educators should test each other twice a week after a training session starting on Monday. Participation is voluntary.
The re should only be tests for the students when self-tests are permitted. Regular tests, ideally daily, would be important, says doctor Hoffmann: “That would bring in enormous security, even if the tests are not one hundred percent reliable.”
More money for the slow digitization
The re is a lack of digital offers and devices, data protection solutions and technical training. During the pandemic, more funds were called from the “School Digital Pact”, which was also significantly increased by the federal and state governments last year.
Education Minister Karliczek, however, had to admit: It needs more speed – “but the direction is now right”. 1.3 billion euros have already been disbursed or approved in 2020, with a total of 6.5 billion euros available by 2024. Among other things, the funds are to be used to purchase laptops for schoolchildren, computers for teachers and other equipment for schools – but it will take some time until these are actually available.
Loneliness, depression, educational gaps
Isolation from friends and classmates also has serious effects: “We see loneliness, we see depressive moods, a lack of exercise and educational gaps,” complained Giffey. Children and parents need a perspective.
A study by the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf comes to a similar result: One year after the start of the pandemic, almost every third child in Germany shows psychological problems. Before that it was only one in five. Children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and with a migration background are particularly affected. And parents, too, are increasingly reaching their limits with the double burden of homeschooling and work. Here one hopes for improvement through the opening of the schools.
The double burden is increasingly pushing many parents to the limit (symbol image). (Source: Fotostand / K. Schmitt / imago images)
Pioneer Saxony: “It’s great for the children”
The Saxons were already pioneers last Monday: “We must not forget what is happening to the youngest when they remain in lockdown. In order to learn to read, calculate and write, children need direct communication with their teachers Children particularly suffer from isolation in lockdown, “said Minister of Education Christian Piwarz, explaining the move. For a week now, daycare centers and elementary schools have been running restricted regular operations.
The MDR reports that the students who were allowed to come appeared almost completely, although the attendance requirement is suspended.
The parents have mixed feelings, including concerns about protection against infection.” Because while some schools would implement all protective measures very meticulously, there are others who adhered less to the requirements.
The primary schools in Saxony have been in restricted regular operation for a week. (Source: Robert Michael / dpa)
Implementation of the rules fails in practice
The actually intended minimum distance is also hardly practical, as she reports: “In a class with 25 children, of course, you can’t keep any distances, no matter how hard you try”.
The majority of parents think that wearing masks during class is disproportionate to elementary school children.” That would have been a survey by the State Parents’ Council, said Eichhorn.
The conclusion of the parents’ representative after the first week: “We hope that everything works out now. It would be a catastrophe if the schools had to close again in four weeks, also for the children. That sucks.” However, the physician Hoffmann has little hope: “
The summer will be overshadowed by the third wave. (…) I fear that the schools will then be open again.”