School openings in hamburg: teachers’ union at a distance

Hamburg’s elementary schools are to reopen after the vacations, and secondary schools are likely to do the same. The GEW calls this "reckless".

There is still plenty of room: School class in Corona times Photo: Philipp von Ditfurth/dpa

Four more school days, then the summer vacations begin. School senator Ties Rabe (SPD) previously announced how things would continue after the months of closure in the new school year: elementary schools would open "with certainty" and secondary schools "with great probability." The Hamburg GEW calls this "desirable, but frivolous." Meanwhile, the parents’ group "Families in Crisis" is demonstrating today at Gansemarkt for the immediate opening of all daycare centers and schools.

Rabe exchanged views with other ministers and scientists last Friday and then held out the prospect of school attendance for grades one through six. The five medical experts pointed out that, weighing the low risk from the coronavirus and the risks to the children’s educational success, an opening was best.

Rabe now wants the younger children, who recently came only by the hour, to return to receiving all their lessons at the school. To reduce the risk of infection, fixed groups should be formed in the schools as far as possible and contact with other groups reduced. Schleswig-Holstein has already been following this model since June 8.

For grades seven to ten, according to Rabe, there is also much to be said for returning to regular classes. Here, however, the authority will "prepare a second plan with a mixture of distance and face-to-face teaching as an alternative". Like all the states, Hamburg is introducing a certificate requirement for teachers who consider themselves to be in the at-risk group and therefore cannot be deployed in face-to-face teaching. There are also free tests and visors for employees.

Court: Staff council should have a say

GEW chairwoman Anja Bensinger-Stolze criticized the plans. She had nothing against the compulsory attestation, but it was "wrong" to withdraw measures to contain the virus at the present time. Because still the distance rule of 1.5 meters fixed by the federation must apply also for persons employed in schools. As long as there is a risk of children infecting adults, attendance times must be restricted and lessons must be held in small groups.

Asked what the children should do during the remaining time, Bensinger-Stolze said she had no solution. "We are in a field of tension there, that is clear to me." The GEW criticized the school authorities for refusing to allow the general staff council to have a say in the Corona measures. The council therefore appealed to the administrative court and was granted summary proceedings.

According to school authority speaker Peter Albrecht it concerned the general personnel council among other things a mask obligation for all school coworkers. However, Albrecht said that his authority could not enact such a requirement because it was not responsible for the Infection Protection Act. The school authority had therefore lodged an appeal against the decision with the Higher Administrative Court.

Anna-Maria Kuricova from "Families in Crisis" complains about the lack of parental involvement. The plans of the school senator are "procrastination policy" and Hamburg is the "taillight in Germany". Kuricova is a mother and is setting up a branch of the nationwide initiative in Hamburg. Rabe’s latest announcement is also far too vague, she says. "When it says ‘probably,’ it’s not possible for us to plan."

Daycare opening too short for work week

Also, while daycare centers in Hamburg have been open to every child again since Thursday, they are only open 20 hours a week. "That’s three days. That’s not enough for a work week." According to a survey, 90 percent of parents felt uninformed. The mother calls for a "round table at City Hall" with parents, teachers, principals and experts. Also needed, she said, is a "child-friendly" plan for a second wave, because losing another half-year of school or daycare is "not an option."

"Opening the schools in conjunction with testing is the right thing to do," says Sabine Boeddinghaus, a school politician from the Left Party. However, it is necessary to involve the schools in the concept and "not to impose it as an authority.

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