Schools and day-care centers: Omikron stress test

Status: 01/29/2022 08:07 a.m

Education, care – a burden in these pandemic times for a long time. Omikron increases stress levels for children, parents and teachers. The number of infections is increasing and there is a chaos of rules in many places.

By Johanna Wahl, SWR Mainz

There are currently 70 corona cases at the Anne Frank Realschule Plus in Mainz. That is about ten percent of all students. The omicron variant is spreading, and the pandemic has been a stress test for schools for two years. So far in Rhineland-Palatinate: If a school child is corona positive, those classmates who were in the immediate vicinity must be in quarantine. But only if they are not vaccinated.

“We should also send vaccinated children home,” demands Ralf Früholz, head of the Realschule in Mainz. From the point of view of the educator, this is the only chance to break chains of infection in the school, since vaccinated people can also become infected with omicron and transmit the virus.

But now the Rhineland-Palatinate state government is changing the rules: From next week, the immediate neighbors of an infected student will no longer automatically have to be in quarantine, whether vaccinated or not. Instead, all children in an affected class should be tested daily, but newly vaccinated or recovered students only on a voluntary basis. Headmaster Früholz cannot understand the change.

Other federal states handle it in a similar way to Rhineland-Palatinate. In Baden-Württemberg and Hesse, for example, only the infected student has to be isolated. The other children in the class are tested daily, but those who have just been vaccinated and those who have recovered are not obliged to do so here either.

In Bavaria, the health authorities decide on a case-by-case basis whether a child from the environment of the infected classmate has to be quarantined or not. That also depends on the vaccination status or, for example, whether there are air filters in the classroom. In any case, a test is compulsory for all school children in Bavaria, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not.

The headmaster of Mainz, Früholz, would also like that for his school in Rhineland-Palatinate. His goal: to maintain face-to-face teaching. “Learning at home didn’t work for many of our students here, we lost them educationally. And it was really bad for the psyche of some without the social integration at school.”

Face-to-face classes yes, sure

The opinions among parents are as different in Corona times as in society as a whole. Nevertheless, the chairwoman of the Federal Parents’ Council, Christiane Gotte, is critical of exceptions to the test requirement for vaccinated and recovered students: “We know that vaccinated people can also be carriers of the virus.” The majority of parents are for face-to-face classes, but for safe face-to-face classes.

In view of the increasing number of infections, compulsory attendance has just been suspended for Berlin schools, initially until the end of February. This means that parents can now decide for themselves whether their children go to school or solve and learn at home. According to the Governing Mayoress, school operations should be maintained and at the same time the concerns of parents should be taken into account.

From the point of view of the chairmen of the Federal Parents’ Council, a suspension of compulsory attendance, as in the capital, should not be a solution for Germany as a whole. For the majority of the Federal Parents’ Council, face-to-face teaching has clear priority, according to Gotte. In principle, the Federal Parents’ Council sees the schools as insufficiently prepared for a possible switch to distance learning and criticizes the lack of uniform standards.

Social and teacher associations criticize planned restrictions on PCR tests

Ole Hilgert, RBB, daily news at 8:00 p.m., January 25, 2022

The planned restriction of PCR tests to hospital staff and risk groups is also causing criticism. Educational organizations feel left out. In North Rhine-Westphalia there are now no more controls with PCR tests for primary school children who have tested positive with a lollipop test.

KMK wants open schools

Around 143,000 cases of corona in children and adolescents in schools were recently known nationwide. Karin Prien, Chairwoman of the Conference of Ministers of Education, believes it is responsible for the schools to remain open in view of the current number of infections: “In view of the psychosocial consequences that children and young people have suffered in the pandemic so far, a switch to distance learning is only possible exceptional situations an alternative.”

Unless the health authorities come to a different assessment, face-to-face teaching can take place under increased hygiene measures, says Prien. This includes the obligation to wear masks in schools, but also an intensive test regime and ventilation concepts.

Compulsory test for one-year-old daycare children

The increasing number of infections nationwide is also a stress test for daycare centers. In Berlin, a test has been compulsory for daycare children from the age of one since this week. Parents receive lollipop tests from the care facility. Children have to be tested three times a week. Those who have not been tested are not allowed to go to daycare.

Lower Saxony has also announced that the testing strategy for children will be tightened. In the future, tests will also be mandatory in daycare centers for children from the age of three. So far they have been voluntary. In Rhineland-Palatinate day-care centers, on the other hand, there is no obligation to test. Only event-related tests are planned here – despite the increasing number of infections in the country. And the state government intends to continue to do so.

Criticism from the Kita specialist association

Criticism comes from educators and from the day-care center specialist association in Rhineland-Palatinate. A small child has just infected several employees, reports Kerstin Wagner. She is the head of the “Birkenbergstrolche” daycare center near Bad Kreuznach. Almost 140 children are cared for there. “We think it’s important that we are treated equally with schools.” Tests are now being carried out there three times a week without cause.

The majority of the State Parents’ Committee, on the other hand, rejects mandatory testing in daycare centers: “That would not bring any relevant safety gain in the current Omicron situation, but it would cause considerable damage to children and families,” emphasizes Andreas Winheller, Chairman of the State Parents’ Committee.

Kita manager Wagner is aware of the constraints of many parents who depend on care: “But if my staff is absent because they are infected, this leads to shorter opening hours.” The pedagogue considers compulsory testing for small children in a community facility to be necessary – and also reasonable.

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