At the coronavirus summit on February 10, the German government finally conceded and agreed that the federal states could decide individually when to reopen schools and childcare. The majority have now announced that reopenings will begin over the next couple of weeks.
German federal states take charge of school reopenings
Angela Merkel had hoped to persuade the federal states to not reopen schools and daycare centres until March 1, but during negotiations on Wednesday afternoon she was forced to abandon this coordinated approach.
She said the “clear and deeply anchored regional responsibilities” also extended to education, and that she could therefore not use her position as chancellor to veto the states’ desire to go their own way. “The states will decide,” she confirmed at the press conference on Wednesday.
The majority of federal states were quick off the mark, confirming as early as Wednesday evening that they intended to resume face-to-face teaching from late February – but under different conditions. Here’s an overview of what announcements have been made so far:
Primary schools and daycare centres in Baden-Württemberg will open on February 22, with classes divided into smaller groups. This was announced by state premier Winfried Kretschmann on Thursday. The composition of the individual groups will always be the same and separate classes should never be at school at the same time, to make sure possible infection chains remain limited and traceable.
Teachers and educators will be provided with masks and given two tests every week. However, the compulsory schooling requirement will be suspended, meaning you don’t have to send your child to school if you don’t want to.
Primary schools will also reopen in Bavaria on February 22, but only in alternating classes and in districts where the seven-day incidence has fallen below 100. All graduating classes at secondary schools will also resume face-to-face lessons. Daycare centres are scheduled to resume restricted operations from February 22 as well.
Berlin & Brandenburg
Primary schools are also due to open in Berlin and Brandenburg from February 22. This was announced by the mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, and the state premier of Brandenburg, Dietmar Woidke, on Wednesday.
Hamburg doesn’t want to reopen schools before March. Mayor Peter Tschentscher emphasised the importance of proceeding with caution and said that the senate would decide what to do after the spring school holidays, which end on March 12.
Hesse has also set February 22 as an opening date. State premier Volker Bouffier happily announced that primary schools and grades 5 and 6 would resume face-to-face teaching, on a rotational basis, from the last week of February. Daycare centres in Hesse will also go into restricted operation on the same day.
Schools have been open in Lower Saxony, on a rotational basis, since January.
Classroom instructions will resume for primary school students in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern on February 22, but only in districts where the incidence rate has fallen below 50. This includes Vorpommern-Rügen, Rostock, Northwest Mecklenburg and the Hanseatic City of Rostock; the plan for the state’s other three districts and the state capital Schwerin, where the value is currently higher, will be decided on Friday. Daycare centres will also reopen on February 22 in areas with an incidence value of below 50.
North Rhine-Westphalia announced on Wednesday evening that it would gradually reopen schools from February 22, with state premier Armin Laschet saying, “Our promise of “schools and daycare centres first will be kept today.” Primary schools are to open with alternating classes. When the seven-day incidence rate drops below 50, face-to-face teaching can fully resume.
The state premier of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer, was one of the first to announce that primary schools in the federal state would resume face-to-face teaching on a rotational basis from February 22. “It is clear that the first steps must be taken with schools and daycare centres,” Dreyer said. Classes will be divided into groups and study alternately at home and at school.
In Saarland, the state administration is proceeding full steam ahead with primary school reopenings. Classes are to resume on an alternating basis from February 22, and the state government has insisted it will not be paying close attention to the infection rate. This means schools will remain open even if the incidence rate rises above 50 again. “It would have to be a very dramatic change to dissuade us,” said state premier Tobias Hans, emphasising that school closures put too much pressure on families.
Things are getting started even sooner in Saxony, where schools and daycare centres will resume normal operations on February 15.
Saxony-Anhalt has opted for the slightly later date of March 1 to reopen schools and daycare centres.
Primary school students should return to school – along with daycare children – from February 22 in Schleswig-Holstein. However, the easing will not apply in the districts of Flensburg, Lübeck, Herzogtum Lauenberg or Pinneberg, where the infection rates are still high.
Other federal states yet to decide
Other federal states have yet to announce their intentions, so it may be that more choose to open in late February as well. If in doubt, speak to your child’s school to ascertain their intentions.