As per resolution of the Hamburger Senatskanzlei from Tuesday, 28 July, Hamburg’s schools are opening their doors again after the summer holidays for general in-person classes and all-day programmes. But the corona virus has not disappeared altogether and there is still the need for caution and the general rules of infection control.
Distancing and Hygiene Rules Continue to Apply
In all schools, the current physical distancing requirements will stay in effect and the hygiene rules must be observed, such as coughing and sneezing etiquette, washing hands regularly and other rules of cleanliness. Some of the distancing rules will be loosened for students of the same grade in certain situations, which will allow them to learn together in their class community again.
Accordingly, schools must organise all activities in such a way so as to reduce contact between students of different age groups. Students in different years must continue to maintain the minimum physical distance. This also applies to teaching staff. Parents and other external persons must wear face masks when entering the school. Parent-teachers conferences and ceremonies (for example, on the first day of school) are permitted, provided that all people maintain the minimum physical distance and that all parents wear face masks.
Extracurricular Activities Will Be Resumed
The main focus of future school activities will be in-person teaching in ‘regular’ morning classes, but relaxing the physical distancing rule for students of the same years may also make afternoon classes and extracurricular activities possible again. Students may take up learning in self-organised study groups, for example Oberstufe (grades 11 and 12 at Gymnasium schools and grades 12 and 13 at Stadtteilschulen, or district schools) study groups, provided that only students of the same age group take part.
With certain restrictions, even sports and swimming classes as well as music and theatre activities are possible. As the risk of infection is higher with these activities, however, some special precautions are necessary. Sports with physical contact are not allowed, and singing is only allowed within the class community under special precautions. Choirs or orchestras with members of different age-groups are only possible if all students maintain generous distances to one another.
Face masks are mandatory outside class
Students aged ten or older must wear face masks at all times when moving around on school premises. This includes all common areas such as canteens and snack shops, class breaks and moving to and from class in the hallways. Only when students are seated and class is about to begin are students permitted to remove their face masks. Teachers, on the other hand, as they are inclined to move around in class, are encouraged to wear a face mask or a visor even in class.
Schools will be given a sufficient number of extra face masks in case students forget their face masks at home. Teachers and all other school staff will be provided with transparent visors and FFP-2 face masks free of charge by school authorities to protect their health. Moreover, up to the autumn holidays teachers and other school staff have the opportunity to be tested for SARS-CoV-2 free of charge by their physician or general practitioner – several times if necessary and even if they do not show symptoms.
When in Doubt Stay Home
Students and teaching staff who can present a certificate from a doctor confirming special health risks do not have to attend classes. Students with an illness and students returning from holidays in a risk area who can’t present a negative test or have yet to quarantine are not allowed to enter the school and must stay home.
Students who need to stay home for whatever reason will be granted a range of learning opportunities suitable for all subjects. In order to facilitate distance learning, school authorities have ordered almost 39,000 accessible laptops and mobile devices, which are currently being delivered to schools. Together with the 11,000 devices existing as of now, around a quarter of all students will have mobile computers at their disposal, which they can borrow from school for home use. This is the best access to digital equipment in all of Germany.
If students still do not have the means to practice distance learning at home, they should exchange worksheets, workbooks, books and handwritten work with their teachers on a weekly basis. In addition to the usual means of communication, the school must organise regular weekly telephone calls with students in distance learning to ensure progress.
Learning to live with a new normal
At the start of the school year, the education level of all students in grades 3, 4, 5 and 7 will be assessed in the main subjects of German, English and maths. Based on test results, all schools will develop support programmes to make up for deficits. The support programmes may also include autumn holidays tutorials.
Apart from that, the majority of students should be able to attend all lessons every week until the autumn holidays according to the timetable. Project weeks, excursions and outings, theatre and music projects and other school activities are only permitted during this period if they do not take place at the expense of regular lessons. Longer class trips are prohibited until the autumn holidays.
“Although development of the pandemic in Hamburg has turned out most positive, we must always be aware that in the event of a drastic change in the situation, attendance at classes will have to be reduced again. That’s why, in the interests of the learning success of children and young people, we must now use the precious time at school as best we can for in-person teaching.” – Ties Rabe, Member of Senate for Education and Professional Training