Whether in pink with unicorns, in black with stars and planets or in blue with differently colored fish – the colorfully designed school cones of the first graders cannot be overlooked. In front of the entrance to the Erich Kästner School in Höhenkirchen, school beginners gathered with their parents on Tuesday morning. The children proudly pose with the pointed cardboard bags for countless photos. Two teachers have a red clipboard in their hand and meanwhile check off the names of the children who can prove a negative corona test.
Two of the 21 school beginners in the new class 1b did not take a test beforehand, but the school is prepared for this. “We have set up a small test station in the school building where the children can do a supervised self-test,” explains Rector Torsten Bergmühl. “The parents know and have had enough time to prepare.” Welcome to the third Corona school year. In which everything should now be different: no alternating or distance lessons, no quarantine for entire classes, instead learning in person, contact with classmates. If that works? A first impression in Höhenkirchen at least raises hopes.
After it is certain that all children have tested negative, the introductory event can begin. Bergmühl is standing on a small stage, looking at several rows of red plastic chairs. Four of them are placed close to each other and form their own small rows of seats for the first graders with a maximum of three accompanying persons. Because only a hundred people are allowed to be in the room at the same time, the headmaster Bergmühl has to give his speech several times in a row for the three new classes. At the beginning he takes off his mask for a moment: “So that you can recognize me in the corridor, too,” he says with a laugh, and especially the adults in the audience laugh too.
Bergmühl directed the word to the children in the auditorium: “We still have this stupid Corona. And that’s why it’s particularly important that you always wear a mask, even when you’re seated.” Because of those who return to Bavaria, a general mask requirement applies to schools until October 1st, after which a new decision will be made. The teaching staff must also wear a mask indoors, “just like the children,” says Bergmühl. Unlike the children, teachers should be vaccinated as much as possible, “but they don’t have to”. Unvaccinated teaching staff are given two to three tests per week by the school. However, it is not checked whether these tests are actually carried out.
It looks different with the children. So-called lollipop tests should be carried out twice a week. “That sounds tastier than it is,” says Bergmühl. The pupils suck on a swab for 30 seconds, which is then collected with the others and evaluated in the laboratory in a PCR test. If a child tests positive, it must go into isolation, as does the person sitting next to it. The others who tested negative can continue to go to school.
At least in theory, this concept doesn’t sound bad, says Florian Schardt. The SPD parliamentary group leader in the Munich-Land district council has a school-age child himself. He advocated the fact that there was now the will – unlike before the summer vacation – “to restrict teaching as little as possible”. However, he is less convinced of the air filters that the state government is promoting. In the district council he had advocated looking at the conditions in each classroom and using the results to decide whether and what type of air filter is needed. The municipality has not yet decided whether the Erich Kästner School in Höhenkirchen will also receive air filters, says Rector Bergmühl.
After the welcome event, class teacher Bettina Bochmann leads her new protégés from the auditorium into the classroom. A father speaks reassuringly to his son – “I was really excited at the time too!” -, cell phone cameras flash, some still run after their children to capture everything on film. Before the teacher closes the door behind her, a father calls out to his daughter quickly: “Bye, I love you!”
The school building is quiet, some parents are standing outside the cafeteria at white plastic high tables. It is a shame that not all first graders were able to take part in the introductory event together, but the school “made it nice under the circumstances,” says Cornelia Riess. She is relatively confident that the coming school year will go well. “The school seemed well prepared for me.”
The tests might not offer 100% certainty, but Katja Liebhart is not too worried either. Her husband Frank adds that the last school year showed him one thing: “Children need contact with other children.” It remains to be seen whether the state government’s new strategy will help schools stay open in autumn.