Schools remain closed in all German states. What rights do parents have? And who cares for the children when no relatives can step in?
What parents need to know now
Schools dense, preferably immediately: Some experts are now guessing to take drastic measures to curb the corona epidemic. The culture ministers also dealt with the question on Thursday. In the meantime, all federal states have decided to close schools across the board. In Austria, all schools in the country remain closed until April 3. Kindergartens, schools and universities are closing down in Poland. What if that also threatens soon in Germany? The most important questions and answers.
Can I leave my child at home and not send them to school to protect them from infection?
Regardless of what makes medical sense, the legal situation is clear: “No, parents are not allowed to do that,” says Wilhelm AchelpOhler, specialist lawyer for administrative law in Munster. In any case, this applies to school-age children. “As long as the health department or school doesn’t decide to close school, children have to go there,” he explains. An exception to compulsory schooling is when the child is sick. “Anyone who does not comply with compulsory schooling is theoretically at risk of being fined,” explains AchelpOhler. If there is a frequent absence, this can be around 200 euros. In extreme cases, custody of school violations can even be restricted.
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As a parent, do I have special vacation rights when schools remain closed?
It depends on different circumstances. As the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs reports that it must be taken into account whether childcare is necessary due to the age of the child. In addition, parents would first have to make “all reasonable efforts” to organize childcare in another way – for example, through relatives. The employee’s right to refuse performance, as set out in the Civil Code (Section 616), only applies if the necessary care cannot be guaranteed. It states that the employee is released from the obligation to perform the service, i.e. to work, due to inevitable circumstances. If the right to refuse benefits applies, employees do not have to take a vacation to look after their child, but can take time off for a few days – and would still be paid. However, it is worth taking a look at the employment contract: this right can be restricted or completely excluded by means of employment or collective agreements.
Who will take care of my children if school closures should occur?
According to the Bavarian government, emergency care should be set up for some children in daycare centers and schools (grades 1 to 6) – for those cases in which only one parent can look after the child, but at the same time works in a system-critical profession, such as doctors and police officers or nurse. The regulation affects 570,000 children in 9,800 daycare centers and around 1.7 million pupils at 6,000 schools in Bavaria. The state government in Hanover announced that emergency care for children whose parents work in medical professions, but also for the police and fire brigades, will also be set up in Lower Saxony. There, all schools and daycare centers will remain closed for four weeks.
The Hamburg school senator Ties Rabe (SPD) said that one had to work on alternative care. However, about ten to twenty percent of the schools would be opened as childcare facilities, said Rabe.
In which federal states are there comprehensive school closures?
All federal states have now decided to take this step. Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Thuringia and Berlin will close the schools until April 19th. Hamburg wants to start school again on March 30th, Saxony-Anhalt on April 14th. Saarland even closed its schools until April 26th. The length of the closure was not yet clear in Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony.
In the particularly affected district of Heinsberg, schools, kindergartens and daycare centers were closed on February 26th. The closure should initially only last a week and a half, but has now been extended by another week. The district’s crisis team decided on Wednesday that the schools might remain closed until the Easter holidays. This would have closed them for six weeks. The high school pre-exams should, however, take place – for example, by spreading the young people over several rooms so that they have enough distance from each other during the exams.
What is the situation in Europe?
Around a third of the EU countries have already closed all schools. This was announced by Croatian Minister of Education Blazenka Divjak on Thursday afternoon, after the conference with around 20 other ministers. A third of the countries closed schools and universities in certain regions. Another third of the Member States have continued normal schooling. Almost at the same time as the Croatian minister’s statement, Slovakia also announced that it would close all schools for 14 days.
How do universities in Germany react to the current situation?
In Bavaria, the start of lectures at universities of applied sciences as well as music and art schools has been postponed to April 20. Officially, the new semester begins on March 15th, and from then on many universities will also be offering online offers. In Berlin, Bremen, Baden-Wurttemberg and Saxony-Anhalt, the lecture period will start again on April 20 at the earliest. In Saarland it starts on May 4 instead of April 6th.