When she stands in front of the class, she sometimes forgets about the pandemic, says Heidi Lungmus: Then it feels like always, despite the masks. Until she read in the newspaper that, for example, the college of a primary school in Baldham had been quarantined. A colleague’s wife teaches there, says Lungmus. What if she tests positive? Heidi Lungmus teaches German and geography at the municipal Werner von Siemens secondary school in Neuperlach; She is a staff council member there and a shop steward for the GEW union, and the teachers were worried, she says. It feels a bit like March just before schools closed: “The impacts are getting closer.”
Lessons began on Tuesday for around 162,500 pupils in Munich. According to figures from the Education Department and the State Education Authority, there is yet another record to report: 11,450 children are now attending the first grade at a state primary school in Munich, more than ever. In the previous school year, the number of first graders had decreased slightly; the state government had previously made it easier for parents to postpone their children for a year. But now the numbers are back to the old level – and even higher. In total, there are now 44 277 primary school children, 35 370 high school students, 13 120 secondary school students and 12 822 high school students among others at the public schools in Munich. They all started the school year almost as if there was nothing: with face masks, but for the first time since the beginning of the corona pandemic for all classes in classroom lessons at the same time, with full class size. The only question is how much longer.
In the first two weeks of September, half a dozen daycare centers in Munich closed due to corona cases, while individual groups were affected in other daycare centers. Classes have also been sent home in five schools. And if there are 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days, according to the guidelines of the Free State, there is again a risk of distance lessons in the area. On Friday this value was 46.08. According to the city, schools and daycare centers will definitely open on Monday. But the schools are preparing.
There are two big issues at his school, says Konrad Brunner, director of the Wilhelm-Busch-Realschule in Neuperlach. The first is to catch up on what was left behind in the past year. The old class teachers had passed the learning status to the new ones, and there were remedial classes. If there were distance lessons again, it would be fatal from his point of view: “Then important content will be lost again”, and the existing gaps have not yet been closed. The Ministry of Culture must also think about this, says Brunner. At some point it will be ready: “We do not expect that we will have permanent classroom teaching.” Therefore the second big topic is to prepare the distance learning. The students have already received access data for online learning and their school email accounts. And the city has already delivered 55 rental tablets for students who lack the technology.
Johanna Scharl also firmly expects distance lessons. She is chair of the parents ‘council of the Johann-Andreas-Schmeller-Realschule in Ismaning and is involved in the state parents’ association of Bavarian Realschulen. She is happy that the state government has formulated new guidelines, she says, just as her parents had asked for. For example, every day should begin with a ritual to check whether all the students are really present.
At the municipal Anita Augspurg vocational school for social affairs and health, distance lessons are already a reality for some students: on Wednesday, a student reported a positive corona test; Now his class is in quarantine and is receiving work assignments and lessons online, says headmaster Berthold Lacher.
It was to be expected that classes would be closed, says Anton Zenz, the technical director of the state education authority, which is responsible for primary and secondary schools. It is to be expected that more will follow. Overall, however, he is “very happy that the first week went so well”. He received almost only positive feedback from the schools: with the exception of a few individual cases, the children adhered to the mask requirement, the schools had prepared themselves excellently and implemented their hygiene concepts well.
These include distance rules and a mask requirement on the school premises – and these are most noticeable to pupils from the fifth grade: They have to wear masks in class in the first two weeks of school, regardless of the incidence value. That is strange, says 17-year-old Annabelle, “but you get used to it”. The student attends the upper level of the Luitpold-Gymnasium in Lehel. On Friday morning she stands in front of the school yard with a classmate. The two of them wear masks, even if they really don’t have to. “Wearing it is the least thing you can do,” says Annabelle. A group of sixth graders nearby even got something good from the masks: If you wag your mask in a sports lesson and then put it on, someone says, it’s nice and cool.
Your daughter also reports good reports, says Johanna Scharl; the girl is in ninth grade. However, you get along less well with a mask, and because the children have to talk louder, even with those sitting next to you, the noise level increases. Many students also wear the masks not only in class, but also on the way to school in the bus, tram or subway. That is a burden.
The hygiene rules mean a new challenge for schools too, because, unlike before, all classes are now fully in the house. His students obediently followed the rules, says director Konrad Brunner. But with 31 classes with 900 students it is more difficult to keep your distance than with half the number.
Heidi Lungmus from the Werner von Siemens secondary school also explains that the teachers are now more busy than before with correcting students. With the mask requirement, she first had to explain to some that it was serious. And separating the classes from one another doesn’t work at all. The staff council is currently formulating a statement that the teachers cannot guarantee compliance with these rules.
There are worries in the college anyway, says Lungmus. She and her colleagues would actually enjoy the face-to-face lessons: “We are happy that we can finally work properly,” she says. But her school also takes care of it. There are already timetables for distance teaching, and the students are already divided into groups, “monsters” and “dinosaurs”: some should come on Mondays and Wednesdays, the others on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Fridays the groups should change weekly. For Lungmus it is clear that this will be necessary at some point. “I’ll give us two more weeks,” she says. “Maybe one.”