Lessons without a mask – especially for older students in Bavaria, this hasn’t been the case for months due to Corona. Although the number of infections is still very high, with the start of the new school week the obligation of the mask will no longer be applied to everyone. This is what the amended Federal Infection Protection Act provides, which Bavaria is now implementing. What exactly will apply to Bavarian schools in the future? What do teachers and students say about it? An overview.
Masks are no longer mandatory for everyone in the entire school building
Ten days ago Bavaria relaxed the obligation to wear a mask when sitting in class, initially for primary school children, but now also for the 5th and 6th grades. It is now completely eliminated – in the entire school building, as the Ministry of Education writes in its last letter to parents. This means that masks no longer need to be worn “both in the classroom and in the meeting areas and rooms used by the school’s daily offerings and lunch assistance”. “This applies equally to students, school staff and all visitors.”
Piazolo recommends: wearing a mask outside the classroom
For the Minister of Education Michael Piazolo (Freie Wahler), the end of the obligation of the mask in the classroom is “certainly a relief” for many students on the one hand, and “also useful for the lesson” on the other. Wherever the classes mix, Piazolo recommends voluntarily wearing a protective mask, that is, in the corridors, on the stairs or in the break rooms.
The Ministry of Culture emphasizes that a mask can of course also be worn voluntarily in the classroom. After a confirmed case of infection in a classroom, it is expressly recommended to wear a protective mask at the seat for five days. By the way, according to Piazolo, schools cannot order the mask by right of domicile, only a recommendation is possible.
The test remains mandatory for the moment
Despite the omission of the mask requirement, there will still be a “high level of protection” in schools, the Minister of Education assured – particularly through regular tests that will continue to exist. At least until the Easter holidays, compulsory exams in schools should remain.
Piazolo himself claims to continue the tests beyond the end of the April 24 holidays: “My position is that we should continue them again after the Easter holidays”. The Bavarian government will be intensively addressing this issue next week. “This certainly also depends on the evolution of the numbers, which we will review later”.
In Bavaria, students are tested three times a week. In grades one through six, there are two grouped PCR tests that are considered to be much more reliable than rapid tests. According to the ministry, further tests will continue to be carried out after an infection in a classroom.
3G for visitors and basic sanitation e
Due to the high incidence, basic hygiene standards remain “of great importance,” according to the Ministry of Education. This includes regular classroom aeration, as well as regular hand washing and label adherence for coughing and sneezing.
For visitors entering the school building, the 3G rule applies: visitors must therefore present valid proof of vaccination or recovery or a negative current test.
Teacher associations fear face-to-face teaching
The teachers’ associations are very concerned about the elimination of the mask requirement. The president of the Bavarian Association of Teachers (BLLV), Simone Fleischmann, complained Tuesday that the tests alone were not enough. There are “immensely high incidences” particularly in children and adolescents. Many are ill or quarantined, and classes are often canceled due to a lack of teachers. “Relaxing now means risking students having even fewer lessons,” said Fleischmann.
The working group of Bavarian Teachers’ Associations also sees face-to-face teaching “in grave danger” due to the end of the mask requirement. Everyone involved wanted a school without masks. “But schools can’t cope with an even higher infection rate with absenteeism and quarantines, so at some point it will depend on the substance: face-to-face teaching.” The mask is a very effective and at the same time easy to use means of minimizing infections. “That’s why we consider this easing in schools to be very critical at the moment.”
Of course, there are also teachers who welcome the new regulation. A teacher from the Augusta district, for example, tweeted: “I can’t wait to be able to look my faceless students in the face again on Monday.”
State Student Council: “Too early”
The state student council of Bavaria is skeptical about the end of the mask requirement at this time. Fabia Klein, deputy spokesperson for state students for high schools, says when BR demanded that the state student council is in principle in favor of phasing out the mask requirement, but gradually. From the point of view of student representatives, it is “too premature” to abolish it completely now.
Klein considers easing in the fifth and sixth years justifiable in view of pooled PCR tests in these grades. The Nuremberg student, on the other hand, criticizes the end of the compulsory mask in the upper classes – especially in view of the maturity exams in high school in less than four weeks, which at worst are at risk. The State Student Council then appeals to students to continue wearing masks voluntarily. After all, the infection rate in many schools is currently very high.
“Much potential for disputes”
Fabia Klein also fears that wearing protective masks could lead to tension and conflict in schools. “I think there is a lot of potential for controversy,” she says. Because now it is the students who have to decide whether or not to wear the mask. “It cannot be that responsibility is shifted to children and young people when federal and state governments should find a common solution.”
A look at social networks already shows the potential conflict caused by the mask requirement. Several users are already reporting discussions among students: some urge them to take off their masks, others urge classmates to continue wearing masks. Still others complain that teachers are pressuring children and young people with urgent mask recommendations.
No hotspot regulations = no masking requirements
The only way to extend the mask requirement in schools would have been to use the so-called hotspot rule. For this, the state parliament should have determined the “danger of a dynamically spreading infection situation” for some regions or for all of Bavaria. Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) had already announced on Monday that the state government would not make any effort because the federal legal basis was too vague. From the point of view of the CSU, the phasing out of the mask requirement in many internal areas is wrong.
On Wednesday in the state parliament, the Greens called for the introduction of the regulation on hotspots via an emergency motion – and therefore the extension of the obligation of the mask “in interiors for public use”. The request was denied.
On the contrary, the AfD parliamentary group welcomed the end of the mask requirement in the middle of the week as “more than expired”. AfD spokesperson for youth, Jan Schiffers, also called for “an immediate end to useless and mass testing on healthy children”.
FDP health expert in the state parliament, Dominik Spitzer, predicts that the number of infections among schoolchildren will remain high. However, it is illusory to believe that mandatory FFP2 masks at school can permanently protect children and young people from infection, he told BR24. “What’s it like in the schoolyard or after school? That’s when the students put their heads together.” Furthermore, Corona does not usually have “a significant course” in children and adolescents. He therefore believes that the end of the compulsory mask at school is “absolutely” justifiable, said the FDP politician, who is also a doctor. Several scientists, on the other hand, had campaigned for an extension of the mask requirement.