School to ‘return to normal’ for German kids after summer holidays

School to 'return to normal' for German kids after summer holidays
A teacher holds a 'welcome back' sign at a school in Schleswig-Holstein on May 6th. Photo: DPA
Germany is planning for all school pupils to return to school full-time after the summer holidays.

Schools and kindergartens were closed in Germany at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in March. Although pupils have been slowly returning to the classroom since May as the lockdown has eased, most facilities are far from back to normal operation.

Now the the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of Germany's 16 states say schools should resume regular teaching schedules and get back to normal as much as possible after the end of the summer break, reported the Tagesschau.

Stefanie Hubig, President of the Conference of Education Ministers (KMK) and Rhineland-Palatinate education minister, said there would be a discussion next about what the coming school year could look like.

Hubig said she understood that parents with young children had reached their limits in the past weeks, with many having to juggle childcare, teaching and work.

The situation at schools across states is moving at a different pace but everyone is on the same path, she said.

READ ALSO: State by state: When and how will Germany's schools reopen?

Hesse opens primary schools without distance rule

Hesse is one of the German states that's moving quickly. From June 22nd onwards, pupils in primary schools will be taught together in classrooms again. And the distancing rule will no longer apply to the children, said Hesse state premier Volker Bouffier.

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However state education minister Alexander Lorz said that there will be no obligation for parents to send their primary school-age children back to the classroom in the lead up to the summer holidays which start on July 6th in Hesse.

Up until this date, parents can still decide whether they want their child to attend classes or learn from home.

In order to contain the spread of coronavirus, all of Germany's 16 states closed schools and daycare centres (Kitas) in mid-March. Since the beginning of May, teaching in classrooms has resumed, but only to a very limited extent.

Many children only go to school on a weekly basis. Municipalities are able to decide for themselves if social distancing requirements should be put in place.

There's also been some controversy over the speed of education facilities reopening due to uncertainty about how the virus can spread among children.

'We must be prepared for second wave'

There is still some debate over how children can safely return to their classes full-time.

Green Party co-leader Annalena Baerbock, has called for firm guidelines for the return to regular operations.

For example, Kitas and schools must be prepared in case there is an outbreak or second coronavirus wave in autumn, she said.

“We must be prepared for this, so that we do not have to face a situation of complete chaos,” she said.

After speaking with experts from the education sector and trade union, Baerbock said there should be “minimum requirements for regular operation under pandemic conditions”, such as keeping teaching groups as separated as possible.

For parents and employees at schools, distance rules should continue to be observed.

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

A nationwide coordinated scientific monitoring of the opening of educational institutions is also needed, she said.

Teachers' associations have expressed reservations about returning to classrooms, and have called for measures such as compulsory masks to be used in lessons, or for tests to be carried out on all pupils and teachers.


Regular operation – (der) Regelbetrieb

The Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of states – Die Kultusminister der Länder

Classroom – (das) Klassenzimmer

Distance rule – (das) Abstandsgebot

Primary school pupils (die) Grundschüler

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