The Senate agreed on Tuesday not to extend the suspension of compulsory attendance for Berlin schoolchildren, which has been in effect since January 25. Compulsory attendance will thus take effect again from March 1, as planned. This decision had been expected due to falling incidences. School administrators in particular had called for the attendance requirement to be discontinued because the social gap in learning progress was widening. The masking requirement continues to apply. Testing takes place three times a week.
According to the education administration, around 18,800 students are making use of the waiver of compulsory attendance. This represents about 4.3 percent, with vocational schools the most affected, with more than seven percent.
The Association of Vocational School Principals reported schools where up to 40 percent of the student body had stayed home. The education administration then stressed that it wanted the decision to "avoid possible school absenteeism."
Education Senator Astrid-Sabine Busse (SPD) recalled that the suspension of compulsory attendance was a reaction to the official physicians' desire to eliminate quarantine measures for contacts. However, she said, she was convinced that "nothing" could replace face-to-face teaching and direct contact. With infection control measures such as serial testing, mandatory masks, regular ventilation, numerous air filtration devices and other measures, employees and the student body would be protected.
With the return to compulsory attendance, the final and transition years would still have time to prepare for exams or the upcoming transfer to a secondary school. Busse also pointed out that students could be exempted from compulsory attendance upon request if they had an underlying illness that could lead to "a particular health risk" in the event of infection. This would have to be proven by means of a qualified certificate.
The same applies to pupils who live in the same household as a person with a particular health risk due to an underlying illness.Despite the Omicron variant, only a few federal states resorted to the abolition of compulsory attendance. Brandenburg was one of them. There, however, unlike in Berlin, it did not apply to the transitional and final classes. Grades 6, 9 and 10, as well as high school graduates, had to come to school in Brandenburg, but not in Berlin.
The Senate also discussed the 2022/23 budget on Tuesday, with Finance Senator Daniel Wesener (Green Party) confirming that there would be a pilot project to remunicipalize school cleaning.Several district councils had decided to remunicipalize. However, this is not feasible without large additional expenditures, and now a pilot project will be launched.
Image by EB Pilgrim