Düsseldorf Intensive airing and cross ventilation, wearing masks again in lessons – pupils in NRW do not have to get used to extreme new corona measures after the holidays. But it will be frostier in the “freezing classrooms”.
After two weeks’ autumn holidays, around 2.5 million pupils and over 200,000 teachers in North Rhine-Westphalia are returning to lessons on Monday - with new corona rules. The most important change is that pupils from the fifth grade onwards are required to wear a face covering again in class. This is the state government's response to the constantly increasing number of new infections.
The reintroduction of obligatory masks will initially apply until the Christmas holidays on 22nd December. Nationwide, masks must be worn in the school building and on the school grounds, also for primary and special needs pupils at primary level. Plexiglas visors are not acceptable alternatives. Masks were already mandatory in class for about two and a half weeks in North Rhine-Westphalia after the summer holidays in mid-August, a practice which was heavily criticised by many at the time.
Teachers must wear a mask at all times if they cannot maintain the minimum 1.5 metres distancing rule. If the lessons require it, the teachers can at least take the mask off temporarily - for example when demonstrating the "th" in English language lessons.
Education Minister Yvonne Gebauer (FDP) wants to stick to on-site classroom teaching for as long as possible and not switch to digital distance teaching or to teaching in shifts. Many teachers' and parents' associations as well as opposition parties criticise this and would like to see rolling models in order to keep more distance in the classroom.
The Ministry of Education, on the other hand, is relying on the effect of regular intensive airing and cross ventilation of the school rooms. The SPD opposition does not consider this to be practical and sees the pupils shivering "in freezing classrooms". The headmasters' association also doubts how lessons can be maintained under these conditions. The state government has set up a special 50 million euros programme to finance mobile air cleaning systems for schools that cannot ventilate sufficiently in any other way.
According to the Education Minister, only 8 and thus less than 0.2 percent of the approximately 6,000 schools in NRW were closed due to corona on the reporting date of 7th October. 2084 teachers - 1.3 percent - were in quarantine and more than 23,000 pupils. This represents 1.2 percent. 853 corona infections were confirmed among the pupils, and 166 among the teachers.