State by state: When (and how) will Germany’s schools open again?

As early as this week, secondary and primary schools around Germany began to welcome students again. We give an overview of what each of Germany's 16 states is planning.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has recommended that school operations be resumed step by step from May 4th onward, first with graduating classes and pupils preparing for exams in the coming year, as well as higher levels of primary school classes.

Yet as early as this week, some students headed back to the classroom for their Abitur exams – under strict hygienic conditions – and others are resuming classes on Monday April 27th.

By the end of April, state ministers of education are set to develop a concept for hygiene measures, school bus operations, break times and group division that meets social distancing guidelines.

READ ALSO: 'Schools should reopen': Germany moves towards lockdown exit as coronavirus cases drop

Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia already started exam preparations on Monday, the same day that Berlin, Brandenburg and Schleswig-Holstein allowed students to take their Abitur exams. 

Some states already followed suit a few days later, while others will wait until the beginning of May.

Here’s what we know so far, broken down by Germany’s 16 Bundesländer.

Students in Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein had at least 1.5 metres of space between them as they took their Abitur exams on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Baden-Württemberg

Schools in the southwestern state will remain closed for most classes, as well as universities and kindergartens. From May 4th onwards, however, classes will gradually resume at secondary schools with final exams taking place this year or next, as well as at the final classes of vocational schools. 

As a next step, fourth-graders are set to return to primary schools, although state leaders did not name a final date. 

Emergency care is available for children of parents in systemically important professions (such as police, fire brigade, medical and nursing staff, food production and infrastructure) – a list which is set to be expanded. 

Bavaria

Starting Monday April 27th, graduating classes in Bavaria will be allowed to return to their schools.

Abitur exams will begin on May 20th.Technical and vocational schools won't resume until June 18th. Students won't be expected to take any more tests leading up to their Abitur exams. This applies to the grammar schools, as well as technical and vocational schools. 

Parents won't have to pay any fees for Kitas for the next three months.

Berlin

Abitur exams in the German capital are to take place as planned starting April 20th. On April 27th, tenth-graders will head back to the classroom again. In the gradual reopening of the school system, classes for sixth-graders will then begin again on May 4th.

Starting May 4th, final year classes will be taught again, as well as any which fall into the “qualification-relevant” category, meaning they have final exams next year.

According to federal and state governments, the last primary school classes will also start again at the beginning of May.

The Berlin Senate is also planning to bring Kita care back in phased stages, with single parents being entitled to care for their children from Monday April 27th.

Care services for youngsters will be resumed “gradually and quickly” in steps over the coming months according to Berlin authorities.

As a first step, significantly more parents will have a right to care of their children.

These include: single parents and all parents working in essential sectors. Parents should contact the hotline on: (030) 9028-2828 if they have any questions.

READ ALSO: What are Berlin's new rules to ease the coronavirus lockdown?

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Brandenburg

Schools in Berlin’s neighbouring state will be open again from May 4th. Abitur exams will also take place on April 27th under strict hygienic conditions, such as maintaining 1.5 metres of distance.

There will also be childcare available to parents working in needed professions.

Bremen

Schools in the northern city-state of Bremen will gradually resume operations May 4th onwards. Priority would be given to final classes of general and vocational schools as well as the fourth classes of primary schools, said mayor Andreas Bovenschulte (SPD).

Hamburg

Schools in the Harbour City will partially open starting on April 27th, with emergency care available to almost all parents. 

The city-state is following the example of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hamburg and will start preparing the pupils of the final classes for their final certificates at school from April 27th onwards.

From May 4th, the fourth and sixth grades, as well as secondary schools, will follow. 

READ ALSO: What to know about the different types of schools as an expat parent

Hesse

From April 27th, the schools will gradually reopen, beginning with the final classes of secondary school, as well as the fourth classes of primary schools. 

The state is concentrating on those classes that are due to graduate or transition to secondary school, said Minister of Education Alexander Lorz (CDU). In order to ensure that distance and hygiene rules are observed, classes will be reduced to a maximum size of 15 students.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Schools in the northeastern state are to reopen on April 27th, with the higher levels (grades 10, 11 and 12) set to return to the classrooms first. 

This should give the pupils of the final classes the opportunity to prepare for the upcoming exams with the help of their teachers, according to state premiere Manuela Schwesig (SPD).

There will also be emergency care available to children who need it.

Lower Saxony

Students are to receive online lessons starting next Wednesday, before classes gradually return to schools starting on May 4th. 

Only for the graduating classes of grades 10 and 13, will classes start on April 27th, announced Minister of Education Grant Hendrik Tonne (SPD). 

Starting next week, the students will receive assignments and learning plans for home from their teachers. Meanwhile, the schools must implement extensive hygiene measures.

North Rhine-Westphalia

Schools in Germany’s most populous state already took steps to reopen from Monday April 20th, and on Thursday there will be compulsory classes for graduating students. Abitur tests will also start on May 12th.

Parents with younger children will have access to emergency care if they have a system relevant profession.

Final-year student Fabio from Haltern am See in North Rhine-Westphalia will wear a face mask reading “Abi [short for Abitur] '20” when he heads back to school on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Rhineland-Palatinate

In the first phase of school openings on April 27th, about 35,000 young people will head back to the classroom – namely vocational students with upcoming exams.

In the second phrase on May 4th, around 130,000 additional students will follow.

Saarland

Schools will begin to open in steps on May 4th. The summer semester for universities will also start up again on May 4th. 

Saxony

Students in Saxony's graduating classes have been able attend school again from Monday. Grammar schools (Gymnasien), secondary schools and vocational school centres have all opened again, but only for the respective graduating classes.

There will be no regular classes, only subjects relevant to the exams. At grammar schools the exam preparation starts next Monday.

Saxony-Anhalt

Schools and Kitas officially remain closed in the eastern state until May 4th, but it’s not yet clear when they will reopen. Still, said Minister of Education, Marco Tullner (CDU): “We now have the clear signal that the schools will open in two weeks as a first very deliberate step”

READ ALSO: Expert Q&A: 'Social distancing measures will be needed in Germany for a very long time'

“We will create the framework conditions in the state, and support schools and school boards in organising school operations again”, said Tuller. The state is expected to cement a plan later in the week.

Schleswig-Holstein 

All schools and kitas in Germany’s most northern state are closed until May 4th. Exams for the Abitur start up again on April 21st.

Starting April 27th, Thuringia’s graduating class would be brought back to schools, Minister President Bodo Ramelow (Die Linke) has announced. On May 4th, all of the classes that will have to take exams this year will follow.

There will also be emergency care services and day-care centres for children in grades one to six during the usual teaching times.

 


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