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School starts today in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania with new Covid guidelines

School starts today in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania with new Covid guidelines

These measures are supposed to prevent mass quarantine and school closure

School is starting today in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in Germany and students have to continue to follow Covid-guidelines for the second year in a row.

The summer break is over and 155,000 children and teenagers are going back to school in that state. This includes 14,300 first graders, the second generation that will begin their school education under pandemic conditions.

But this time, according to the authorities, things will be different and schools will stay open for as long as possible.

School staff have more than a year of experience following pandemic protocols and by this point, masks and social distancing are not unfamiliar concepts. Another factor is the fact that a substantial number of older students have had the vaccine.

Experience and extra precautions to prevent a new wave of quarantines

Even if the infection rates are currently low, the state is taking extra precautions to make sure it stays that way and schools do not become a breeding ground for a new wave of the virus.

First of all, masks are compulsory in all school buildings at all times, though this may not come as a surprise to anyone at this point. Second, students will have to take a Covid-test twice a week. This is in line with Germany’s overall policy for the use of closed public spaces, in a way, mirroring the country’s policy on clubs.

Thirdly, parents will have to submit a health certificate before the start of class. This is a relatively special feature for Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and it has to do mainly with quarantines after holiday trips.

The schools have already sent out these certificates, but the rationale behind them is quite simple – if the children are supposed to be in quarantine after a trip or if they have doubts, they should stay home. School attendance is not more important than risking a new outbreak and a subsequent wave of quarantines.

Testing, testing and even more testing

The state education minister Bettina Martin announced the first couple of weeks will be dedicated to academic testing to assess the students’ level. The focus is not on grading, because the tests will help teachers base the rest of the year’s lessons around the results.

What is being tested here is not the students, but rather an entire year of quarantine, online learning, social distancing, and the compound effects of these measures on the children's academic performance.

This move will help determine whether the educational system should develop a compensatory mechanism so that those who are left behind can catch up.

Overall, state politicians promise a different school year, with no large-scale closings. They can somewhat back this up with the high number of vaccinated teachers and mobile vaccination centres accepting 16-year-olds for the next few weeks.

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