Voluntary mask after the Easter holidays? – ROS current

From Monday it will no longer be mandatory to wear masks in schools in Rhineland-Palatinate. Many students and teachers still want to continue wearing masks after the holidays.

The Easter holidays will end on Monday. In view of the expected increase in the number of corona infections in schools, they wanted politicians to focus more on safety. From 4 April wearing mouth and nose protectors in all schools in the country is voluntary only.

“We appeal to continue wearing masks and to continue taking part in testing, as long as they still exist.”

“The school must be a safe place for all students, teachers and employees. The abolition of the mask opens the way to a real ‘infestation’ of children, adolescents and young adults,” said Colin Haubrich, council member of the state student representation (LSV) Rhineland-Palatinate, alerted at that time. Ahead of the start of school on Monday, he now told SWR: “We appeal to continue wearing masks and to continue taking part in the tests, as long as they still exist.”

Many teachers also wished that the mask requirement had been maintained until after the Easter holidays, explained state president of the Education and Science Union (GEW), Klaus-Peter Hammer. “We therefore recommend that masks continue to be worn voluntarily and we hope that school authorities will continue to provide masks.”

Did the fears come true?

Meanwhile, the development of the number of infections in schools showed a significant decline after a peak in late March until the beginning of the Easter holidays. For the Ministry of Education of Rhineland-Palatinate, this confirmed “that the gradual withdrawal of the compulsory mask did not have negative effects, but represented a justified and adequate appreciation of the protection needs of our students and teachers”.

The fact that it wasn’t as bad as feared could also be due to the fact that, according to student representative Haubrich, many students still voluntarily wore masks in class. “The majority said we carry them out to protect ourselves and others. So most of the students were reasonable, more reasonable than politics when they abolished the measures,” says Haubrich.

The school management and the ministry are not authorized to make recommendations

As a spokesman for the Ministry of Education explains, however, due to changes to the federal infection protection law, there is no longer a legal basis for ordering the mandatory wearing of masks in schools. “Once these legal bases are abolished, it is inadmissible that schools continue to make the use of masks mandatory. Of course, every student and teacher can continue to wear a mask voluntarily,” said the spokesman for the ministry.

However, neither the Ministry of Education nor the school supervisory board, school management or other school bodies can make recommendations for the use of the face mask. “Such a ‘recommendation’ or ‘please’ could be misinterpreted as an instruction or undue ‘peer pressure’ could arise on students and teachers who do not want to wear masks.” Both should be avoided.

From 3 April 2022, despite the high incidences, most of the protective measures will no longer apply. Does it make sense if I keep wearing the mask in certain situations, like at the supermarket?

Not everyone respected

However, the Ministry of Education and the school supervisory board “have become aware of some individual cases in which the school management, school committees (general conferences, school parents’ advisory councils) or the class teachers of the school or of the respective class continued to recommend wearing masks in class. ” In such cases, the school management would be informed of the aforementioned legal provisions.

This is what teachers in Rhineland-Palatinate say

The GEW of Rhineland-Palatinate had also recommended its members to contact the respective council of parents of the schools and encourage them to voluntarily wear masks. So far, the education union has drawn an ambivalent conclusion on the abolition of the mask requirement.

For some teachers it was a “step towards normalcy,” says state president GEW Hammer. But many are also worried and would have liked to see more security.

Relief, but safety first

From a practical point of view, it is some relief that teachers no longer have to take the mandatory crown tests for attending face-to-face lessons. However, many are of the opinion that the processes have now worked well and that things have gotten along well. “To protect everyone, we wanted to continue,” Hammer said.

Because in the past, coronavirus numbers in schools have risen again and again, especially after the holidays. Among other things, the Ministry of Education suspects that this is due to the increase in contacts in the private sector and travel. In this context, the offer of voluntary tests and the regulation on compulsory tests related to the events must be maintained for another week until 29 April.

Rules after April 29 in schools in Rhineland-Palatinate

Schools need to be made aware of the rules that apply thereafter to the beginning of next week. Regardless of the use of masks and tests, the Ministry of Education recommends compliance with general hygiene rules (washing hands, keeping distance, ventilation, etc.). So far, these have worked well.

Furthermore, the general decline in the number of infections and the drop in schools before the holidays give hope that school operations can continue to normalize. The now significantly higher vaccination rate among children and young people also contributes to this: as of 20 April, according to the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Education, 64% of young people between 12 and 17 years old were basic vaccinated, 33 % had a booster vaccination.

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