Against the advice of paediatricians: Minister of Education for mask compulsory in schools

The topic of masks in the classroom polarizes teachers, parents and professionals. The ministers of culture are now taking the side of caution. The face mask should therefore only fall next year, even if individual countries have already pushed ahead.

From the perspective of the Standing Conference (KMK), the corona protective measures such as mask requirements and tests at schools are still necessary for the time being. “The decision is not to drop all protection concepts from one day to the next,” said the KMK President, Brandenburg’s Education Minister Britta Ernst, after two days of deliberations in Potsdam. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recommend – unlike the paediatricians – to hold on to the masks. But: “I very much hope that at some point we will no longer need these measures.” From her point of view, this will be the case at the latest sometime next year, said the SPD politician.

With the help of masks and tests, the culture ministers of the federal states are using masks and tests to avoid school closings during the pandemic, even at the beginning of the cold season. It is “essential to keep the schools open and to ensure that classroom teaching is permanent,” according to a resolution. In the current school year, despite the pandemic and delta variant, it was possible to ensure full and continuous face-to-face teaching in all countries.

With a view to the different procedures of the countries to relax the mask requirement, the KMK president referred to the unequal corona infection situation and the local acceptance. “We are in a corridor of easing steps,” said Ernst. “But we’re in the same movement.” Whether, when and where masks have to be worn in schools is basically regulated by the federal states themselves. In several federal states, the mask requirement in schools has already been relaxed, in North Rhine-Westphalia it is expected to be abolished from November 2, taking into account the infection situation in the classroom on seats will.

Corona tests are not a must

For corona tests, which are also a matter for the federal states, the KMK chooses an optional formulation: “In order to maintain the security gained for school operations, the regular tests for schoolchildren can be continued until further notice.” Even with an extensive abolition of the mask requirement in schools, quarantine orders should be limited to infected persons or close contact persons in the view of the ministers “in the interest of reliable face-to-face teaching”.

The KMK president was not surprised that since August, after observing the RKI, there have been more corona outbreaks, especially in schools. “We knew that the incidences in children and adolescents would be higher than in adults because we have a later vaccination recommendation or no vaccine recommendation or vaccine for children under 12.”

The federal government continues to be challenged when it comes to digitization

The KMK is calling on the federal government to continue funding for further digitization – e.g. computers for schoolchildren – after 2024. “The digital pact must not be a flash in the pan,” said Ernst. Hamburg’s school senator Ties Rabe, also from the SPD, said the different data protection requirements urgently need to be clarified.

The digital pact is a funding program for the digital modernization of schools that has been running since May 2019 and until 2024. The federal government had initially provided five billion euros for digital learning platforms, the establishment of the school’s own WLAN, the purchase of interactive boards (smartboards) and other investments. In the course of Corona, the funding program was increased three times: 500 million euros for laptops for needy students were added, 500 million euros for service laptops for teachers and 500 million euros for school administrators who take care of the technology.

In addition, the KMK decided on recommendations for a compulsory elective or elective “German Sign Language”. According to KMK, there are already master plans in Berlin, Brandenburg and Hamburg. Hesse’s minister of education, Alexander Lorz of the CDU, said it was very nice to now have clear guidelines for lower secondary level (grades 5 to 10).