The debate about what should have changed compared to the first lockdown remains emotional.
Are the schools now de facto open or closed? This question creates dissonance. The government and opposition have not yet been able to agree that the truth lies somewhere in between.
The following message is particularly important to the Ministry of Education and the green government partner: The schools are “not locked or closed”. They also run “not only in emergency mode, like in March,” said the Ministry of Education on Sunday.
This is justified by the newly established “learning stations” where children are taught on site. Teachers are also encouraged to actively address pupils with special needs to come to school. The teaching staff also received digital training over the summer, which should guarantee better distance learning. If necessary, students should support teachers at the learning stations. A pool of 2,000 people is available here.
Schools therefore remain “open” to care and educational support. Whoever has to or wants to take advantage of this offer is also allowed to do so. After all, Education Minister Heinz Faßmann emphasized in an open letter to the parents: “If the ceiling falls on you or your children, then it is best to let your child go back to school temporarily. A day or two is often a great relief. “
“Dishonest and Wrong”
So open schools for everyone? Because of the high number of infections, you don’t want to ventilate this message – at least not too vehemently. The aim is and will remain that as many students as possible take advantage of the distance learning offer and stay at home. Additional loaners are to be made available for this. Today’s Monday is there to prepare students for distance learning and to agree how many children need to be looked after in schools at what time – by the day, by the hour.
The Ministry of Education expects that around 20 percent of children will continue to visit the school buildings. During the initial lockdown, this percentage was still in the low single digits.
The opposition sticks to its fundamental criticism: The schools are in truth closed because, as in March, there will be no classes, said Martina Künsberg Sarre, education spokeswoman for Neos. To say otherwise is “dishonest and wrong”. SPÖ chairman Pamela Rendi-Wagner reiterated her criticism that children are not “drivers of infection” and that it is therefore “fundamentally wrong to close schools”. Children would have only a tenth the infection rate compared to adults.
The Vienna Education Directorate reacted more relaxed: The guidelines were clear and it was now a matter of communicating them broadly in a short time. In addition, when it comes to “pedagogical support”, there is definitely a difference compared to March.
The union made a similar statement. In an interview with the KURIER, the top teacher’s representative, Paul Kimberger, emphasized that solidarity is now necessary: “Schools do have an influence on the infection process. At the moment it is about the number of infections falling again. “
Nevertheless, there are still bottlenecks in terms of staff, safety and hygiene measures and digital devices, emphasized Kimberger. “Those are things that one has to criticize.” In this context he would like to emphasize the area of special education: “This is about children with special needs, where the distance and safety measures in this form cannot be observed.”
No legal claim
He called for additional protective measures and more support in this area, said Kimberger. According to the Ministry of Education, face-to-face classes will continue to take place at special schools. A switch to distance learning is not possible due to the restrictions for the students. This time, there is no room for maneuver when it comes to the legal entitlement of parents to special care leave, where employers are compensated for the costs incurred by employees when they have to look after their children at home.
In March this was still possible in consultation between the employer and the employee. The lockdown established the legal claim at the time – which is not the case this time. Parents are only entitled to special care leave when schools and kindergartens are actually closed – for example because of an epidemic outbreak. Labor Minister Christine Aschbacher confirmed this on Sunday.