Schools get too few air filters for safe teaching

Photo by Carlos LindnerDespite the spread of the Delta variant, Germany's schools will start classes after the summer vacations with too few air filters. "The implementation status after the summer vacations - in terms of new installations - cannot be reliably estimated at the current time," reads a response from the Federal Ministry of Economics to Green Party faction leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt, obtained by the Daily Mirror.

The reason, he said, is that the amended subsidy program did not go into effect until June 11, 2021. And depending on whether new installation of decentralized systems for classrooms or centralized systems for the entire school building is planned, there are different costs and implementation times, he said.According to the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, 176 applications for new installation under the new program had been received by July 1, and 84 commitments with a volume of around 21 million euros have been sent out so far.However, scientists have been calling for an offensive here for a year. The states criticize the federal government for launching a 500 million euro funding program too late. The federal government, for its part, says it is giving money, but that the states and municipalities are responsible for implementation.Actually, classrooms with sufficient air filters should be offered especially for pupils under 12 years, who cannot be vaccinated, in order to reduce the aerosol load, over which the Coronavirus can be transmitted.

"The fact that the federal government can neither manage a clear statement nor a promise as to whether its air filter promotion program will have an effect by the time school starts after the vacations is shocking and makes me stunned," Göring-Eckardt told the Daily Mirror. There are many Sunday speeches by ministers, she said.

"But when it comes to finally acting with foresight and commitment in this ongoing exceptional situation at daycare centers and schools, they once again go into hiding, dilly-dally and shift responsibility to the states and municipalities." This cannot be allowed to continue, "otherwise it will mean another education and childcare crisis in the fall." Children, young people and families must finally become the focus of politics. In addition to more air filters, more proactive vaccination offers are needed for parents, educational staff and young people who are willing to be vaccinated.

According to the will of the state ministers of education and cultural affairs, schoolchildren in all grades are to be taught in full groups and in their classrooms as far as possible after the summer vacations, despite warnings of a spread of the highly contagious delta variant. But in a survey by Daily Mirror Background on "Precautions to Ensure Classroom Attendance at Schools," there is a striking lack of clue about the status of practical preparations, such as the installation of air filtration systems - with the exception of the state of Bremen - up and down the country. Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) is threatening Bavarian municipalities as school authorities with a state directive if necessary. "We have almost 100,000 classrooms and practice rooms, but the municipalities have only purchased or ordered 14,000 filter systems. That's not enough," he criticized.

The SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach stated: "At the beginning of school there will again be no air filters". Since the Standing Commission on Vaccination (Stiko) would also "unfortunately probably not make a recommendation" for vaccination of 12- to 18-year-olds, only regular corona PCR tests of entire classes and strict quarantine rules would remain - virologists also suggest regular Gugel and Lollit tests, in order to secure school operations.

Bavaria's Minister President Markus Söder (CSU) said the Stiko should urgently consider "when to recommend vaccinating young people." This would increase protection for all, he said. "And we give freedoms back to a generation that had to do without a lot." The most effective means against the delta variant, he said, is schoolchildren's vaccination.From Bavaria's point of view, face-to-face teaching is the "most effective way of learning"; in planning the new school year, the state is guided by the recommendations of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. Two weeks ago, the Leopoldina, in its role as policy advisor to the German government, issued an ad hoc statement calling for measures to ensure regular instruction.

The Leopoldina's reasoning was the psychological and physical damage to children and young people as a result of an education policy which, in the one and a half years of the pandemic - apart from banishing children to home schooling under the mistaken assumption that they could acquire knowledge and social behavior virtually through self-study - had come up with little that was imaginative in many places to even come close to meeting the diverse needs of children and young people.

This slap in the face has obviously had an effect on those responsible for education policy: The education ministries of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Brandenburg, Bremen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, all of which responded to the Daily Mirror survey, agree that the sole focus on the number of infections should no longer be the sole indicator of whether schools should open or close at the start of the new school year, given the rising vaccination rates and the resulting protection of vulnerable groups in particular.

"With all due caution, I do not think it is appropriate to stir up fears - especially since people with an increased risk of a severe course of disease will be vaccinated to the greatest possible extent by the new school year," says, for example, the Minister of Education of the Saarland, Christine Streichert-Clivot (SPD), Daily Mirror Background.The number of infected persons would "then no longer provide a reasonable picture of the situation." "There we must also look at other criteria that provide information about the burden on our health system."



Photo by Carlos Lindner

 


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