German teachers call for stricter school closures as part of country-wide Covid measures

German teachers call for stricter school closures as part of country-wide Covid measures
Schools in a graduating class in Groß-Gerau, Hesse on Tuesday. Photo: DPA
Many schools will have to switch back to online learning sooner than planned due to new 'emergency brake' measures to be voted on Wednesday. Here's why some educators say the rules don't go far enough.

The German teaching union has called for emergency Covid-19 measures to be tightened once again, so that schools transition to online learning at a lower rate of infection than proposed by the government.

Under Germany’s Notbremse (emergency brake) measures, set to be voted on Wednesday, schools would have to close if more than 165 infections per 100,000 residents in seven days are detected.

Yet the president of the union, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, called the threshold, already lowered from 200 in new draft legislation Monday, “still too high”.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: These are the planned changes to Germany’s ’emergency brake’ Covid rules

According to the recommendations of the federal committee on health, schools are not not to offer in-person teaching if the 7-day incidence rate goes above 165, though graduating classes and schools for children with special educational needs should be exempt from this.

In many regions, the rate of infection has already exceeded this threshold. 

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Miedinger stressed that he could not understand why schools should be held to a different standard to other areas of society.

He suggested that “in order to effectively prevent outbreaks of the virus in schools, in-person classes should stop when the incidence rate goes above 100”.

The national Covid-19 incidence rate in those aged 10 to 19 has already increased significantly, he added.

READ ALSO: ‘Third wave is clearly upon us’: German ICU waves struggle as younger patients fill beds

What are the new ’emergency brake’ measures?

Alongside these amendments to Germany’s Infection Protection Act legislation, a curfew will be enforced in regions where the number of coronavirus cases is particularly high. 

Original plans introduced the curfew at 9pm, but new changes would delay the start to 10pm, with restrictions lasting through the night until 5am. 

It will still be permitted to go jogging and walking alone until midnight, but group activities are forbidden. 

The emergency measures will be decided on in the Bundestag on Wednesday and will take effect shortly after they are approved at state level. The rules will come into force when the 7-day incidence in a city or region exceeds 100 on three consecutive days. 

‘German schools will largely have to close their doors’

Most areas have welcomed the changes. Gerd Landsberg, president of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, told the Rheinische Post: “It is only right that the curfew begins at 10pm, otherwise we would have seen everyone rushing into supermarkets before they closed.”

He also believes it is a sensible decision to close schools when the incidence value creeps above 165. 

“If we look at the current rate, the new law means that German schools will largely have to close their doors to students in the coming weeks.”

READ ALSO: German teachers call for uniform Covid measures in schools nationwide

Some politicians have said that the new unified measures will win back the trust of people in Germany.

“The confusion caused by varying levels of enforcement of the emergency brake regulations across the country has sacrificed public trust over the past few weeks,” said Leipzig’s mayor Burkhard Jung

“We now need to regain this trust through a cohesive nationwide approach, though at the same time it is good that the national emergency measures will be limited to the end of June.”

Klaus Reinhardt, president of the German Association of Doctors, recommended further criteria for the introduction of emergency brake measures. 

Alongside the incidence rate, he suggested that measures should also take into account the number of new patients being admitted to intensive care units and those needing to be put on ventilators.


Member comments

  1. @Lyssa77: That is quite a conclusion to draw from this. That’s like saying: I didn’t realize Lyssa77 didn’t care about children losing a parent. Remote learning cannot replace learning with physical presence. Not even close! But for you to accuse us of not caring about children’s education? Wow! Have you any idea how much more difficult it is/how much more time it requires for us to convert our lessons to something engaging and as meaningful as our physical lessons? It is sooo much harder. It would be far easier for us to say, “Nope. Enough remote learning. Everyone in the classroom.” But it is not safe. I have two little girls as students whose father is in a medically induced coma as his life hangs in the balance due to Covid. I have students whose parents are undergoing cancer treatment. If you’re asking which we care about more — that our kids have parents to go home to or that they master their 9 times table by the end of year 3… I guess I’d have to choose the latter.

    I hope you reconsider your comment. It’s ok to have a change of heart.

    1. There are many essential workers that have to continue to work at a risk to themselves, but they ARE essential. Teachers are essential. Go back to work. All the teachers and staff at our school that wanted to be vaccinated are vaccinated. If Germany failed its people and especially the teachers, why punish the kids? I’ve never been concerned about my kids catching COVID because statistically they won’t even know they ever had it.

      1. We ARE at work. What are you talking about? I’ve worked every day through the pandemic. Where do you get the idea that we aren’t working? I’m paid for 40 hours but wirk about 50 since the pandemic has started. My contact hours have stayed the same, but the students need way more time and direction outside of lessons whenever we are online. I’m making far more appointments to tutor kids or re-explain things or answer questions. As are my colleagues. I don’t understand how you can say we aren’t working. That’s just a complete and utter lie.

        1. Working parents with children who are now home are spending double time. Remote school invariably means you are constantly trying help children in different rooms and different grades get through lessons and if your child falls behind in the Zoom or it disconnects because of poor service, that’s your problem. At the same time you are doing all this for multiple children, you are supposed to be working on your full time work as well. It means you’ll be up late again doing the job you’re paid for. Studies have shown in-person classes did not make a teacher any more likely to catch COVID then when they were just going about their lives and to boot, most infected teachers did not get it from students. The whole thing is nonsensical and may have initially been to protect health of students and staff, but data has shown that it isn’t a risk anymore. The added infection boost from in-person teaching was 3%, the benefit far outweighing the cons. Schools should not close. Masks should be worn inside. They found whether the kids were 3 feet apart rather than 6 feet, the infection rate didn’t increase. That meant you didn’t need plastic bank teller barriers or desks 6 feet apart. Some teachers are elderly or ill and they should be allowed to teach remotely until they’re vaccinated, but it makes no sense for teachers under 50 to teach remotely. It’s just all become political and frustrating for parents and kids alike. As cases rise, school closures should be absolutely last on the list of measures. Certainly not at 156 per 100,000. It’s too low. It’s not putting kids first in my opinion.

          1. I get it. I have two kids on two separate Zoom conferences sometimes WHILE I’m teaching from a third device. And at 3:15, when my teaching day is over, I have to help my kids make up the work they didn’t get done while o was working. And then I have to do my prep after they go to bed, which is way too late these days. I get it. It really, really, really sucks. But you had accused us of not working and written that we should “get back to work.”

    2. asymptomatic spread is a theory with which many doctors disagree with. First time in the history we are treating healthy people (with no symptoms of disease) as a threat. What if you are wrong and base on the false claims , you are refusing children their basics rights to have proper educations, meet friends and do sport? I know personally two cases of teenagers taking their own lives due to lockdown. Mental health is crucial for your well being. https://gbdeclaration.org/

  2. I apologize. You are working and it is clearly not your choice to stay home. I agree that it is stressful for teachers with kids too. Our schools are currently operating full time. American teachers were fully vaccinated back in February on the military bases. I do worry about my kids, not getting sick because kids don’t really get sick from COVID, but their emotional health mainly from being segregated. My remote school experience was from California which has been closed since last March. The teachers are definitely keeping kids out of school via their unions. The CDC has shown it’s safe to go back and they refuse. I just don’t want the same thing here where the teacher’s unions are the leading reason to keep schools closed and certainly not the science. I was pleased to come to Germany for work with the US military and schools were open. The difference in my kids was almost instantaneous. I hope the German government understands this that kids need to be in school.

  3. @lyssa77: You’re sure they’re vaccinated? The teachers in NRW have only been able to get one dose so far. Most of us couldn’t get scheduled for our second dose until mid-June. So, we’re not even technically vaccinated until we have the 2nd dose.

    I can’t speak for all teachers, but on behalf of those I consider my friends and who don’t have underlying health concerns, we don’t seem worried about infection because of what it will do to us personally. Our concern is about infection among our students and their families. By being vaccinated, we hope to at least not transmit the virus.

    Like you, I’ve also felt worried about my own children’s education because, as stated in a previous comment, distance learning can’t replace in-person learning. Plus whether online or in Wechselunterricht, I’m teaching 5 days of the week and am at work from 7:45-16h, I can’t even help my own children with their school work on the days they’re home because I’m teaching other people’s children. (This is why I can’t fathom how you could say we should “get back to work.”)

    Believe me when I say that we teachers are working harder and longer than ever before. We are converting physical lesson materials into digital; we are engaging with students between classes to address gaps; we are logging in earlier or staying later to have an extra couple minutes to try to cultivate social-emotional relationships with kids who seem lonely or sad; we are making tutorials to visually explain how to use some tools; we are keeping meticulous seating charts
    ; contacting parents more often than ever; uploading worksheets and instructions in about 3 different platforms for the parents‘ convenience; we are downloading returned student work, marking, and uploading again. Tomorrow, after getting to school an hour before students so I can self-test, I’ll be assisting first graders with their self tests and super-discretely and gently dealing with those children who get two lines (again).

    Please bear in mind that, just because your kids are only in the school building 2 days of the week doesn’t mean teachers are only teaching two days. We are still there 5 days a week. (And if we are in quarantine — which certainly happens when parents send their children to school with Covid), we are still teaching from home our full timetable.

    We also want so badly for the students to be back 100%/ full time — when it is safe for them and their families. It’s so much better for the students and teachers alike. (Side effect: Teaching with 100% physical presence is much easier.) Their emotional well-being is suffering by not being in school. Hopefully, in addition to the support we offer in school (be it online or in-person), they have a supportive parent who can listen to them and help them make sense of all this stuff that doesn’t really make all that much sense.

    How nice that you have the privilege of not having had to worry about your kids contracting and transmitting Covid. But empathic people (as teachers tend to be) DO worry about getting vulnerable people ill. (I hope you never have to comfort a crying child who repeatedly bursts into tears months after losing her father to disease. I’ve had 3 students under the age of 8 in the past two years alone who’ve had a parent die.)

    (Please remember that, just because your children, might only be in school 3 days a week, doesn’t mean that their teachers somehow are also only teaching 3 days a week.)

    I’m sorry that you still seem to hold to your view that teachers aren’t working and don’t care about children. Maybe underneath your fear or anxiety that your kids are falling behind or under the terrible stress of being a working mom/homeschool supervisor you do know that that’s just not true.

  4. All the teachers at my school that wanted the vaccine are vaccinated. Germany failed it’s people as far as vaccines go, and now, they plan to fail their children as well. I’m assuming, hoping, my children’s school, gets an exemption from these new federal edicts because their experts aren’t.

  5. Honestly, this response really only undermines the hard work and focus teachers have had on student well-being for the last 15 months. We can be both critical of the situation regarding vaccines and not enough serious support for schools while also wanting to serve children and their families. I’m an educational leader in Germany and we are all doing our best to serve the needs of children but not enough is being done to help us and to make sure both the teaching staff and children are as safe as possible. Fully vaccinate teachers as a start!

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