Sleep ten more times. Then everyday life begins again for Berlin students – with the exception of the first graders. Shortly before the end of the summer vacation in several federal states, it is becoming clear what measures schools should take to reduce the risk of corona infection. For Berlin, it was announced on Thursday that there will be only a very limited obligation to wear mouth-nose protection: it should not apply in schoolyards and in classrooms.

What do the Berlin regulations provide for in detail?

In all schools, including vocational schools, the obligation to wear a mask should apply at the end of August 10th. In a letter to parents (which you can download here), which was sent out on Thursday, the education administration explains the details: “Except for the lessons and the implementation of the supplementary support and care, the obligation to wear a mouth-and-nose cover in closed applies Clear “. People who cannot wear such a cover because of a health impairment are exempt from the obligation. In the schoolyards or during outdoor activities, there is no need for a mouth-to-nose covering. Parents and all people outside of school, on the other hand, must always wear a mask.

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What about elementary and special schools?

Studies – from South Korea, for example – show that children up to ten years of age pass on the infection to a lesser extent than adolescents. Nevertheless, the Berlin Education Administration wants the mask to apply to younger people as well. This could also be due to the fact that Berlin’s elementary school students can be up to 13 years old since Berlin has a six-year elementary school. Special schools can do without the masks if the pupils are not able to wear them. This is already regulated in the Infection Protection Act.

How do the primary school leaders react?

Astrid-Sabine Busse, chairwoman of the Berlin School Leaders’ Interest Group, welcomes the fact that the obligation to wear a mask should not apply to schoolyards: “That would have neglected the reality of life.” Even so, she expects that the regulation at primary schools will be difficult to enforce because of fears that younger children will not keep their distance, forget their masks or wear them incorrectly in the long run. How this should be checked is unclear to her. Nevertheless, Busse, who runs the school in the Köllnische Heide, is optimistic about the start of the school. There is still one week left for planning and information. There is also enough space at their school and they want to equalize the breaks in the first three grades. “I think that every school now has to act individually and independently.”

How useful is the mask requirement outside the classroom?

The sense and nonsense of masks has been discussed since the pandemic broke out. The decisive factor is what the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recommended in spring, namely that “wearing a mouth and nose cover in certain situations in public spaces as a further component to protect risk groups and the infection pressure and thus to reduce the rate of spread of Covid-19 in the population ”. This recommendation, which is implemented in local public transport, in shops and in large parts of the catering trade, continues to apply.

Now, of course, the obligation to wear a mask at schools does not apply in the classrooms – where the pupils will no longer have to keep their distance in the future. At first glance, this may sound absurd – and it is not really consistent either. However, the concept of the Senate follows the idea of ​​arranging the mask requirement in the school building where learners and teachers of different classes meet. This is to prevent children from becoming infected in the large collection rooms such as foyers or staircases. In an emergency, infections should be limited to the smaller groups of children who sit together in class and whose contacts are therefore easy to track.

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The Kultusministerkonferenz (KMK) also advises on forming such fixed learning groups – called “cohorts”. Before the holidays, a single class was often considered to be such a cohort if distance rules were not used. Working groups and other cross-class activities were excluded.

How are the cohorts now formed?

Nationwide, this should now be handled more generously. In several countries – such as Saarland and Bremen – after the holidays, an entire year is considered a cohort and no longer just individual classes. In this way, basic and advanced courses are to be made possible in the upper grades, which are attended by various pupils. The same applies to all-day care. With school corona infections, this means that potentially much larger groups may need to be quarantined. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern goes even further: in primary school, grades one to four are counted as a cohort, after which two grades are combined. Groups of up to 400 pupils are possible at vocational schools. Saxony completely dispenses with the cohort principle.

How do other countries handle mask wear?

Differently. The Hygiene Framework Plan published by the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in mid-July is formulated relatively generally. They “deliberately” avoided details in order to take into account the “specific local conditions”, they say. After all, the corona situation in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania can look different than in North Rhine-Westphalia. In fact, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is one of the countries that do not require a mask – the only exception: the kiosk vendors who sell snack snacks. Brandenburg and Bremen also do not prescribe a mask.

In Rhineland-Palatinate, Lower Saxony and Saarland, mouth and nose do not have to be covered in the classroom, but otherwise in the school building – as in Berlin, this applies to all grades. Saxony and Hesse leave it up to the school management to set up appropriate rules. In Hamburg, the mask requirement only applies to parents and people outside school.

Who is the duty to attend?

In Berlin, all students must take part in face-to-face classes who cannot submit a certificate because of a previous illness, that they or another person living in the household belong to a risk group. This is how most countries hold it, and Saxony has also reversed the interim lifting of school attendance. It’s different in Baden-Württemberg: Here parents can decide for themselves whether to send their child to school. However, children who do not take part in class have to do their jobs – just like during school closings.

How is the shortage of teachers made up?

It is still completely unclear how many teachers will be missing due to corona. A survey of the Tagesspiegel in several Berlin schools showed that there are far fewer teachers than when school was closed, when all over sixty-year-olds were able to work from home. Some schools therefore lacked more than 40 percent of the college.

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It can now be heard that only individual teachers per school will make use of the opportunity to obtain a certificate from the occupational health service. They would then have to work from home. Nevertheless, many schools may face problems that teachers are missing – even if there are only two or three. There is no representation reserve at Berlin’s schools. Rather, there is a budget from which substitute teachers can be paid. However, the reservoir of such substitute teachers has melted very much: Many of them have been working relatively hard at schools for a long time because there are hardly any regularly trained teachers on the market. Schools are therefore afraid that they will face an even greater shortage of teachers than usual.

What happens if families come from risky areas by car?

This question is completely unanswered: if families do not indicate that they have just returned from high-risk areas, schools are exposed to the correspondingly higher risk. These students would normally have to go to quarantine or prove that they are not infected. If the quarantine is not over when school starts, it should be counted as tails, Berlin’s school senator had announced. Therefore, it is feared that not all families will not tell the truth about the timing of the return.