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North Rhine-Westphalia: How school life might look like after the holidays

North Rhine-Westphalia : How school life might look like after the holidays

After the summer holidays, the "corona holidays" are also over. Then all pupils in NRW will be back at school every day. But the corona crisis will still affect the new school year.

The approximately 2.5 million pupils in North Rhine-Westphalia are due to go back to school every day after the summer holidays. All of the approximately 5500 schools in North Rhine-Westphalia will return to regular operations for the new school year 2020/21, announced NRW Education Minister Yvonne Gebauer (FDP) in Düsseldorf on Tuesday.

Should it not be possible for individual schools to hold classes in person at times due to corona infection protection, lessons will be held at a distance. However, there should be as much face-to-face teaching as possible. "Schools in NRW must not shy away from the corona pandemic from the outset", Gebauer said.

In order to gain more time after the weeks of corona-related restrictions on school operations, the Abitur examinations will be postponed by nine teaching days next year - and thus until after the Easter holidays. They will not begin until Friday, April 23, 2021.

Despite the postponement, the exams in German, English, French and mathematics will continue to take place on the dates that have been fixed nationwide for the long term, Gebauer said. There will continue to be central Abitur tasks, but with an expanded selection of examination tasks.

The examinations for the acquisition of the Hauptschulabschluss after grade 10 and the middle school leaving certificate (Fachoberschulereife) will also be postponed by one and a half weeks in order to gain more teaching time.

No compulsory mask duty in schools

There will still be no compulsory masks at schools, but there will be a "mask requirement" in playgrounds and corridors, Gebauer said. The 1.5-metre distance rule would not apply in schools - not even in courses at secondary schools where pupils from several classes were mixed.

However, the teachers would have to document "who, when, where and with whom in a learning group" in order to be able to trace the source of infection in a corona case.

Concrete details on Friday

Gebauer will probably announce more concrete details on the return to regular operations this Friday. This will also include the legal regulations for distance learning. The SPD criticized that Gebauer's timetable leaves many questions unanswered and is incomplete. A few days before the beginning of the summer holidays, important details such as the implementation of distance learning had not yet been clarified.

A week ago, federal and state governments had agreed that schools throughout Germany should return to regular operations after the summer holidays if the infection figures are positive.

The President of the Conference of Education Ministers (KMK), Stefanie Hubig (SPD), reaffirmed this on Tuesday. "Regular operation is not wishful thinking. Regular operation is the goal we have", she said in Berlin.

More teachers, and hired faster

In order to compensate for the corona-induced loss of teachers with pre-existing conditions, the state government wants to recruit additional staff. For example, newly qualified high school teachers with a fresh diploma, who would not have the chance of a job for several years due to the change to the nine-year high school, are to be hired now.

However, according to Gebauer, they may be seconded to all other types of schools for a few years in the meantime. These can also be Hauptschulen. According to the ministry, they will not suffer any disadvantages in service. Approximately 1450 teachers are to be recruited after the holidays.

According to Gebauer, a total of almost 85 percent of the approximately 200,000 teachers are currently available. The normal sick leave rate is just under seven percent.

According to Gebauer, school trips abroad are forbidden until the autumn holidays. Hiking trips or city trips within Germany are permitted, however.

Closures not impossible

Gebauer also did not rule out the possibility of complete or partial school closures after the summer holidays due to increased corona risks. Currently, all schools are closed due to the massive corona outbreak at the meat giant Tönnies in the Gütersloh district.

Primary schools in NRW had already returned to normal operation in the last two weeks before the summer holidays. About half a dozen elementary schools had to reduce or completely close classes during this time due to corona cases.

The Abitur exams were passed in NRW despite school closures. Gebauer said that of the almost 90,000 high school graduates of the current year, only three had been infected with the corona virus. He said that 360,000 school-leaving exams had been passed.

The Teachers' Association VBE said that the Ministry of Education was expecting that there would be no normal regular operation of the schools. "Everyone wants regular operation, but unrealistic expectations must no longer be raised," said VBE state chairman Stefan Behlau. "School life after the holidays will still be school life with Corona, not without."

(Original text: dpa. Translation: Mareike Graepel)