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Berlin: Back to School in a Deteriorated Corona Situation

After the fall vacation, some 360,000 students are supposed to return to Berlin’s schools on Monday. Many of them will have to get used to new rules.

Ortenberg, September 23rd, 2020 (The Berlin Spectator) — When the fall vacation started in Berlin, the Corona situation was already sort of bad. In the Neukölln district alone, 31 schools were directly affected by the pandemic. As many as 79 students and 13 teachers and other employees were infected with Corona. As a result, 1,854 students were in quarantine, in Neukölln only.

Masks in Class

The Albrecht Dürer Gymnasium high school was affected. So were the Ernst Abbe Gymnasium, the Hannah Arendt Gymnasium, the Silberstein School and many more. Now that the vacation is over, the overall Corona situation in Berlin is even worse. The capital has become one of the main Corona hotspots in Germany, and the numbers paint a terrible picture.

That is why the Senate Administration for Education tightened the rules. In senior grades, students will have to wear protective masks in class as well. This applies to both secondary schools and vocational colleges. Teachers and other school employees need to wear masks in public rooms and teacher’s lounges.

Prevention is Priority

For now, those new measures apply during the first week of school after the fall vacation. That is because the Senate Administration intends to adjust the rules to the infection situation once a week. The week after next, there might be even tighter rules if things do not improve. Or they might be eased.

After the summer vacation, things looked somewhat better than they do now.

According to Berlin’s Education Senator Sandra Scheeres, the decision to tighten the rules was taken even though schools are not the main center of infection. She stated prevention was a high priority. “As much as possible, we have to prevent infections to be carried into schools and distributed there after the fall vacation”, she said.

Schools on Mission Impossible

From now on, all schools in Berlin will be informed about the infection situation and the measures that will be put in place on Thursdays. The measures are supposed to be implemented on Mondays, according to the latest ideas the Senate Administration came up with.

Schools in Germany, and probably all over the world, basically are on a mission impossible. They have to minimize the risk of infection while providing education. In winter, class room windows cannot be open all the time, but ventilating them is important. Wearing masks in class is not ideal, for many reasons, but necessary in a situation like this one. Calling all of this a challenge for teachers, headmasters, but also the pupils, is an understatement.