Solingen wanted to be a pioneer. From Wednesday on, the classes of all secondary schools in the city in Bergisches Land should be halved. Regardless of the specific infection occurrence at the individual school, half of each class should alternately study face-to-face and the other half in distance lessons by the end of November. Lord Mayor Tim Kurzbach (SPD) said that around 20,000 students should be prevented from school closings.
The Social Democrat spoke confidently of the “Solinger Weg”, which should set a precedent throughout North Rhine-Westphalia. Kurzbach referred to the high seven-day incidence value in his city – which, at more than 200, was well above the North Rhine-Westphalian average. He also referred to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). According to his assessment, the reduction of the school coffers “by sharing or changing lessons” from a value of 50 new infections is advisable.
Bad role model?
But on Tuesday, the country banned the city from making hybrid classes the rule. By decree, the Ministry of Health, which is responsible for infection issues, after consulting the Ministry of Education, instructed the independent city not to implement its general decree. School Minister Yvonne Gebauer (FDP) does not see the “Solinger Weg” as a shining example, but as a daring experiment that endangers educational opportunities. The stop for the model is not a decision against Solingen, “but for educational equality in North Rhine-Westphalia,” asserted Gebauer.
Because face-to-face teaching in open schools is of the utmost importance for the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people. There is currently no “massive infection rate” at any of the Solingen schools. There is only one partial closure. At all others, face-to-face classes take place, the number of students and teachers in quarantine is not higher than the national average. “Lump-sum distance tuition at the instruction of a school authority is not an appropriate means of educational equity.”
The general reduction in face-to-face lessons will lead to social disadvantage for all those children and young people who, for very different reasons, receive less support at home than their classmates. And for the parents, an undifferentiated approach such as in the “Solingen Model” is once again a major challenge, believes Gebauer.
The corona-related division of classes in NRW has actually long been possible. However, a statutory ordinance from the beginning of October stipulates that the respective school principal introduces distance teaching according to specific needs – and not, as is now planned in Solingen, the school authority (i.e. the respective municipality). Paragraph two of the standard also states: As a rule, face-to-face lessons are to be given.
The 50 value is not decisive for schools
Gebauer sees himself in line with the education ministers of all other federal states. There is a consensus among her colleagues that adapted face-to-face teaching with strict protective measures should be the norm. The incidence value of 50 was defined as a threshold value for the subject of contact tracing. For good reason, however, there is no incidence value from which it is necessary to switch to distance learning in schools. This argument is particularly important to the minister: the federal states agreed on the partial lockdown precisely because schools and kindergartens can remain open and there are no widespread closings. “It cannot be that the Solingen model is applied if, for example, there are no cases of infection at the schools in Minden.”
The minister indirectly accused the Solingen mayor of wanting to introduce a model “through the back door” for all municipalities in the state. In addition, Gebauer pointed out that many municipalities have still not called up the funds made available for equipping them with digital end devices, that there are currently only 68 of the more than 5000 schools being partially closed and none are completely closed.
However, the number of corona cases among students and teachers has more than doubled since the end of the autumn vacation. A query by the Ministry of Education showed that last week in North Rhine-Westphalia, 1808 corona cases were known among the more than two million students, three weeks before that, 853 were reported. The number of infected teachers rose from 166 to 367. The virus had long since arrived in schools, said opposition leader Thomas Kutschaty (SPD) and took the state government to court. He was appalled by the decision. Solingen had to improvise in view of the increasing number of infections, because black and yellow act haphazardly and anti-science.