Schools on US military bases to close classrooms as Germany readies for tougher coronavirus lockdown
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 14, 2020
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Schools at U.S. military bases in Germany will hold a final day of in-person classes before transitioning to remote learning, in line with new host nation restrictions aimed at bringing down stubbornly high numbers of coronavirus infections, officials said Monday.
Tuesday will be the last day before the winter break that students will report to school, Department of Defense Education Activity-Europe spokesman Stephen Smith said in a statement.
They should “take home their belongings and any materials/equipment they need to operate in remote learning” that day and will start school after winter break in remote status, the statement said.
Teaching staff will continue to come to schools to obtain materials, help students sort out technological issues and prepare for the switch to remote instruction after the end of the winter break, the statement said. Their last day to physically report to school will be Friday, it said.
Remote learning will continue in DODEA schools “until the German government provides additional guidance” on whether restrictions announced this weekend have succeeded in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and in bringing down the number of infections, the statement said.
Jan. 10 is the “tentative date to return to in-person instruction,” the statement said.
The DODEA virtual school schedule will not change, officials said.
German schools were ordered to close nationwide beginning Wednesday or switch to online lessons until Jan. 10. Germany had kept schools open but made the change after restrictions imposed in November failed to significantly reduce the number of new infections.
More than half of DODEA-Europe’s 77 schools are in Germany.
U.S. military commanders had not yet announced Monday what other base facilities and services would be affected by Germany’s tougher lockdown rules, which are due to take effect Wednesday and run through at least Jan. 10.
German school instruction could also continue remotely after that date.
U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria said it was working with 7th Army Training Command “to determine the actions that we will implement in conjunction with the German lockdown,” the command posted on its Facebook page Monday.
Berlin has called on citizens to forgo Christmas shopping, amid fears that retail outlets would be packed on the last two in-store shopping days before shops that sell nonessential goods join other businesses that have been ordered to close under the tougher lockdown rules.
“I wish and I hope that people will only buy what they really need, like groceries,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier was quoted by The Associated Press as saying Sunday, when senior government officials held an emergency meeting. “The faster we get these infections under control, the better it is for everyone.”
In addition to closing most retail stores and hairdressers, the new rules place strict limits on social contacts, forbid singing in church and ban sales of fireworks.
Germany’s public health center, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 16,362 new coronavirus infections Monday, about 4,000 more than a week before.
Kendal Morgenweck, a student at Hohenfels Elementary School, Germany, does her daily online assignments at home in March 2020, during the first coronavirus lockdown. Department of Defense Education Activity schools in Germany will hold their final in-person classes Dec. 15, 2020, before switching to remote learning following the winter break.
GARRICK W. MORGENWECK/U.S. ARMY