How Berlin is re-opening schools and Kitas, explained

For Berlin parents, the discussion over when and how schools and daycare will open has been incredibly confusing. An explainer, in plain English.

Empy classroom at a Neukölln school. 
Empy classroom at a Neukölln school.

Berlin-Earlier this week, Germany's "hard lockdown" was extended till the end of January. Online lessons resumed this week and schools will begin reopening step-by-step on Monday, 11 January. But Berlin's plan is complicated.

Berlin's state education minister Sandra Scheeres, summed up plans for partial reopening as such:

"The infection situation means that a lot of pupils cannot yet switch to onsite lessons. Starting next week, the graduating grades will make a start, followed by the youngest primary school children, for whom distance learning is least suitable. With emergency care at schools and the emergency care in day-care centres, we want to avoid the worst hardship for parents. We are all aware that the current situation is particularly stressful for many families, but also for the staff in schools and daycare."

The devil is in the detail, so here's a point-by-point outline of what Berlin is planning for schools and Kitas in the coming weeks.

From 11 January 2021...
  • There will still be no regular classes.
  • Emergency care will be offered at primary school level. Children whose parents work in essential professions and lacking other possibilities for care can make use of emergency care for up to eight and a half hours per day. It is sufficient if one parent works in a "system-relevant" occupation. Single parents are entitled to emergency childcare if they have no other means of care.
  • The final years (grades 9, 10, 12, 13 in Integrierte Sekundarschule and Gemeinschaftsschule and grades 10, 11, 12 at Gymnasium, 12 and 13 at vocational Gymnasium, as well has graduating classes at Berufsschulen (vocational schools) will have on-site lessons with groups half the normal size, with the usual corona hygiene guidelines in place.
  • Lunch will be provided for pupils in attendance.
  • Examinations and tests can take place for in classrooms for all grades if a minimum distance of 1.5m is maintained.
  • Schools must provide additional support and assistance to socially disadvantaged pupils. For example, if a pupil is at risk of not completing his or her school-leaving certificate, they should be offered learning opportunities in small groups.
From 18 January 2021...
  • Grades 1 to 3 in primary schools will return to school with classes half the normal size, observing the social distancing and hygiene rules. A minimum of three hours of on-site teaching per day must be ensured.
From 25 January 2021...
  • On-site lessons will resume for grades 4 to 6 at primary school with classes half the normal size, observing social distancing and hygiene rules. A minimum of three hours of on-site teaching per day must be ensured.
  • Face masks must be worn during lessons in grades 5 and up. From 8 February, all school types and grades shall be subject to face-to-face teaching in groups half the regular size.
From 8 February 2021...
  • All school types and grades will be back to on-site teaching in groups half the regular size.
By 15 February...
  • School authorities will consult with health authorities and revise the school plan according to the corona situation then.
What about Kitas and daycares?
  • Currently, Berlin's daycare centres continue to offer only emergency care. Emergency care can be used in the event of an extraordinary and urgent need for care as assessed by the parents. However, parents are requested to organise care for their children at home or elsewhere as much as possible.
  • Officials says the daycare situation is being monitored continually and will be revised depending on how the pandemic develops.

Right now, this is just a plan that seems riddled with pitfalls and raises as many questions as it answers. Like those sent to us by a reader: "How does a lockdown work if parents have to take their children to school on u-bahns and so on? For just three hours? How do parents work if they have to deliver kids at 8am and then collect them again at 11am?" 

Excellent questions - and hard to answer at this point. Sounds like parents will continue to muddle through - juggling "home office" and home schooling, online lessons with school runs.

We'd like to hear from you about your experiences with schooling and daycare during the pandemic in Berlin. Send your thoughts to