Schools will gradually resume classroom lessons soon in many federal states/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

Germany: Several states announce reopening of schools

According to the resolution of the Corona Summit, a meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of the 16 federal states on the management of the pandemic, on Wednesday the lockdown measures in force will be extended in principle until 7 March. Among the key other decisions made at the meeting was that individual federal states should decide on the reopening of their schools and day-care centres.
Several states have now announced their school resumption dates: 

Baden-Württemberg’s Minister President Winfried Kretschmann wants to open day-care centres and primary schools gradually after the carnival holidays on 22 February. The condition for both openings is that the coronavirus infection figures allow them.

Berlin plans to open its schools also on 22 February, said Governing Mayor Michael Müller on Wednesday after the federal-state consultations in Berlin.
He however said it was not a matter of opening up in one fell swoop, but of “gradually ramping up attendance at primary schools” with alternating lessons, strict hygiene rules and new coronavirus testing opportunities for teachers and children.

According to Premier Dietmar Woidke, primary schools in Brandenburg will probably be able to start alternating classes again on 22 February.

Bremen’s head of government, Andreas Bovenschulte, sees his state’s approach to the regulations for schools and day-care centres in the pandemic confirmed. Schools were never closed in Bremen, he said, but they were subject to clear restrictions. “This is now the direction all the federal states are taking,” Bovenschulte said on Wednesday evening after the federal-state consultations on the Corona crisis.

Hesse will make the model of alternating physical attendance possible for pupils in grades one to six as from 22 February, Premier Volker Bouffier has announced. From grade seven onwards, distance learning will apply, with the exception of final-year classes. This will continue until the Easter holidays, he added. The day-care centres, too, are to return to limited regular operation as from 22 February.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
Primary schools and day-care centres in some regions of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are to reopen regularly from 22 February. This is to apply to districts and independent cities that have an incidence value of less than 50, as Minister President Manuela Schwesig announced in Schwerin on Wednesday evening after the federal-state consultations.

The gradual reopening of schools in North Rhine-Westphalia is planned to begin on 22 February, Premier Armin Laschet said on Wednesday after the federal-state consultations. NRW will coordinate with Hesse, Lower Saxony and Rhineland-Palatinate, he said. In NRW, pupils have been in distance learning since mid-December.
NRW wants to offer face-to-face lessons for all pupils again as soon as the threshold of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants is reached within seven days, education minister Yvonne Gebauer explained.

From 22 February, primary schools in Saarland will open with alternating lessons, Premier Tobias Hans has announced. The move will be accompanied by a strict hygiene concept and extensive testing, he said.

Saxony’s Premier Michael Kretschmer has announced the opening of schools and day-care centres in the state as from 15 February. He said various interests were taken into account in arriving at the decision. The mental health of children, youths and families was just as much a part of it as the aspect of education. However, if the number of infections rises again, the measures will be scaled back, he said.

There are to be regular classes again for Schleswig-Holstein’s primary school pupils from 22 February. “We have a positive trend in the number of infections in Schleswig-Holstein,” said Premier Daniel Günther on Wednesday evening, explaining the reasons for his decision. In addition, the day-care centres are to switch from emergency to regular operation on 22 February.

In Germany, states enjoy some sort of autonomy in education policymaking. This is why the resolution of the federal-state consultations on Wednesday left it to the individual states to decide on the date of reopening schools.

Meanwhile, the German Teachers’ Association has criticised the lack of unity among the states on the reopening of schools . “There must finally be an end to the federal states going it alone when it comes to running schools,” said President Heinz-Peter Meidinger, while speaking to the Funke-Mediengruppe on Wednesday. Different approaches in the states weaken the acceptance of political decisions and increase the already great uncertainty of parents, pupils and teachers, he said.

Vivian Asamoah

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