Berlin mayor admits mistakes in reopening schools

Graduating classes need time in school and officials were hoping to find a way to get everyone back.

Hizzoner Müller.
Hizzoner Müller.dpa

Berlin-Mayor Michael Müller (SPD) admitted the government was wrong in attempting to restart in-person schooling following the Christmas break, forcing officials to backtrack in the face of strong criticism.

"First, it has to be said that it didn't go well and we made a mistake in communication," Müller told broadcaster rbb on Monday. "An impression was given that schools would open again across the board from today. That was of course not the case at all."

The goal had always been to follow joint decisions by federal and state governments and, depending on infection figures, have graduating grades return to "classes in schools, simply because it's important for them to have a certain foundation before their graduation," said Müller. "And we simply wanted to show what a gradual school opening could look like, with first the graduating classes returning, then the younger grades from first to third, then third to sixth."

Other states did "not move as decisively as we did" and had already had graduating classes in school in December or early January, and wanted to open elementary schools in mid-January.

"But there was a lot of confusion," Mueller said. "Many parents and teachers were worried that too many people would suddenly congregate back at school. And that's when we had to make a change."

After some back and forth, Education Senator Sandra Scheeres (SPD) announced an extension to online schooling last Friday for students in grades one through nine, as well as for some higher grades, until at least 25 January. No one would be required at school before then.

However, graduating classes in grades 10 to 13 could be required to attend classes in small groups at schools starting Monday, 11 January.