Minister of Education vs Teachers’ Associations: Was it too early to end the obligation to wear masks in schools? | hessenschau.de

Since the end of the compulsory mask in Hessian schools, teachers’ associations have reported an increasing number of infections among students and teachers. The Ministry of Education promises further easing.

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Criticism of the loosening of the crown in schools



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“The omicron wave has broken, the number of infections and quarantine in our schools is decreasing significantly” – thus the Minister of Education Alexander Lorz (CDU) justified the omission of the mask requirement for schoolchildren at beginning of March.

After a good four weeks, however, the new infection curve is clearly pointing up again. On Tuesday, the incidence of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the seven days was 1,529, and in the age group from five to 14 it was even 2,528.

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In the Emsbachtal school in Brechen (Limburg-Weilburg), for example, sick leave was high not only among schoolchildren. According to principal Bernd T. Steioff, teachers are also increasingly absent; above, a quarter of the team was hit. “This puts a strain on the staff and the work ethic,” he says. “We are at the limit of capacity”.

Ministry of Education: disease rate unchanged

The Ministry of Education, on the other hand, currently puts coronavirus and quarantine status among teachers at an average of about two and a half percent. This corresponds to the odds of recent times, there has not been a new peak, according to Wiesbaden.

“Schools are not the hotspot where most infections occur. This has not changed even with the abolition of the obligation to mask”, says Lorz. Rather, increasing cases of the disease should be seen in the context of society as a whole, and the incidence among children is no longer significant anyway due to regular check-ups.

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In the schools themselves, however, the perception is different. The number of children and young people who were absent due to a quarantine measure or because of their own coronary heart disease has increased significantly since the second week of March, reports the Education and Knowledge Union (GEW) Hessen. The same goes for the staff.

The Association of Philologists criticizes the hasty abolition

The president of the Hessian Association of Philologists, Reinhard Schwab, also reports that normal lessons are sometimes no longer possible. This is not only due to the end of the mask requirement. However, according to Schwab, it was premature to abolish them before the Easter holidays. All the more so since it is a reasonable and proven measure to stem the incidence of infection in schools.

So did the easing come too soon? Education Minister Lorz thinks this debate is pointless: “Of course we could have waited, but if it wasn’t necessary, why bother the children with this?” The mask is an obstacle to a good educational exchange in the classroom. “That’s why it was important to me that it was the first of all measures,” says Lorz.

Organization of high school exams

Meanwhile, the State Parents Advisory Board has not felt great relief about the removal of the mask requirement. On the contrary: in view of the final exams at the end of April, President Volker Heitmann fears new omissions for the students.

Unlike Corona’s previous two years, this time nearly all of the students were absent during the time they were preparing for exams, Heitmann says. Since there was no distance learning nationwide, they would have to do it individually.

The abolition of the Corona measures from 2 April now also jeopardizes the execution of the tests – and not only: “It suggests that it would all be over,” says Heitmann. He is certain: “It will resume in the autumn”. Classrooms should therefore already be equipped with air filters across the board.

Mandatory tests are expected to continue to apply in April

The Minister of Education now looks to the present. “If the rest of society relaxes, there is no point in maintaining stricter measures in schools,” says Lorz.

From the beginning of April, however, the state government will no longer have any power. Due to the federal government’s new infection protection law, only the testing requirement can be legally maintained. At least until the end of April there are still three tests a week for school groups and teaching staff, mandatory for those who have not been vaccinated.

Lorz announced that a different deal would be made in May. Moreover, “it makes no sense if the rest of society does not take the tests and we only have an extremely strict regime in schools”.

“I don’t need freedom day”

The GEW is far from enthusiastic about the supposed end of all crown measures in the schools of Hesse. “We don’t need a proclaimed Freedom Day, which actually has nothing to do with reality in educational institutions, but rather transparent and effective measures,” says President Thilo Hartmann. This still includes wearing a mask.

In the Emsbachtal school in Brechen, mouth and nose protection is still an integral part of the classroom even after it has been officially abolished. The vast majority of students continue to voluntarily wear masks for fear of contagion and quarantine.

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