Berlin. In view of the increasing number of corona infections due to the Omicron variant, compulsory attendance at Berlin schools has been temporarily suspended. From Tuesday, parents can decide for themselves whether their child goes to school or works and learns at home on tasks and projects, as Senator for Education Astrid-Sabine Busse (SPD) announced on Monday. This initially applies until the end of February.
The face-to-face teaching remains the “regular form”, it was added in a statement from the education administration. “Schools will make learning opportunities available to all students wherever possible. If parents decide against the presence of their child in the school, the school must be informed immediately and informally in writing.”
“We are on the side of children, young people and families”
With the decision, the education administration and the Senate are changing direction. Most recently, the Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) had always emphasized that she wanted to hold on to face-to-face classes for as long as possible. This is important for educational and socio-political reasons.
“We stand on the side of the children, young people and families in this city. We are therefore sticking to our main goal of leaving the schools open so that they can fulfill their important educational, upbringing and care obligations,” said Senator Busse on Monday about the new decision. In this way, families with school-age children would also be supported.
Associations called for a return to temporary home schooling
“But of course we also take the worries and fears of parents very seriously,” continues Busse. “After the medical officers announced that they would end contact tracing for schoolchildren and no longer send direct contact persons to quarantine, I think the temporary suspension of compulsory attendance is appropriate.” In this way, the Senate is accommodating concerned parents and at the same time ensuring schooling and care for those who want to go to school.
The number of corona infections had recently increased, as was the case everywhere in Berlin schools. That is why there were also demands from associations or from parents to suspend compulsory attendance. In Brandenburg, compulsory attendance for schoolchildren in numerous grades has been suspended since the end of November 2021 until at least the winter holidays.
Giffey: “The schools remain open”
Berlin’s Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey justified the suspension of compulsory attendance at the capital’s schools with a changed situation as a result of the increasing number of corona infections. “The decision we made (…) is based on the statement by the medical officers in the health authorities that they can no longer understand contact tracing in all of the more than 800 schools with over 300,000 students,” said the SPD Politician on Monday after federal and state consultations on how to proceed in the corona pandemic.
“At this moment, when we have such a situation, with such numbers of cases, it is important for us on the one hand that we keep the school running, that there is still an offer.” At the same time, some parents were worried and would like to decide whether or not to send their child to school. This is now easily possible from Tuesday.
“Nevertheless, it is important for us: The schools remain open, the face-to-face offer is still the standard offer,” says Giffey. However, the suspension of compulsory attendance is a way to meet various needs. This is a reaction to a changed situation. “That is what is expected of us. It has nothing to do with losing control.”
More testing after winter break
In Berlin, the incidence in the age groups 5-9 (3479.5), 10-14 (3746.7) and 15-18 (2585.1) is currently higher than in other population groups. Across Berlin, the value, which represents the number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days, was 1464.5 on Monday according to the health administration’s status report. Experts assume that a corona infection in schoolchildren does not usually result in an inpatient stay in the hospital and serious illnesses.
As the education administration also said, corona infections of schoolchildren who tested positive at the beginning of their school attendance will be temporarily certified on a form provided by the education administration. Reason: The health authorities initially stopped issuing such a certificate. The paper is important for parents to document to their employer that they have to look after the child at home.
After the one-week winter break, the students at the Berlin schools will also be tested every day for two weeks, i.e. five times a week. So far, such corona tests have been common three times a week. After the Christmas holidays, five tests per week were sometimes carried out.