DODEA delays return to in-class learning at all schools in Germany except one
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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Schools at all but one U.S. military base in Germany will continue remote instruction through at least Feb. 12, officials announced Thursday.
Schools at Spangdahlem Air Base are the sole exception, the Department of Defense Education Activity-Europe said.
“We will continue to work with military and public health officials to monitor the situation and will provide updates as necessary,” DODEA-Europe said in a statement. “The health and safety of our students, staff and community is our top priority.”
DODEA’s 34 schools in Germany have been closed for in-class learning since mid-December when Germany shut down its schools as part of strict lockdown measures.
DODEA officials had considered reopening classrooms as early as Monday.
The Bitburg-Pruem district, which includes Spangdahlem, had a relatively low average of 51.5 daily coronavirus cases per 100,000 over seven days as of Thursday, according to data posted by Germany’s Robert Koch Institute. That’s just above the average weekly rate of 50 new cases per 100,000 residents that Chancellor Angela Merkel has said must be reached in Germany before restrictions can be eased.
The incidence of new cases is higher in other parts of Germany where there are DODEA schools. According to RKI, the rates in the city of Kaiserslautern and the district surrounding the city were both above 90 per 100,000; Wiesbaden averaged 82.6 new cases in one week and Stuttgart, 70. The district housing Grafenwoehr averaged more than 155 new infections over the last week while Bavaria, which houses several U.S. military installations, including Grafenwoehr, averaged 97 new cases per 100,000.
With some German states where DODEA schools are located announcing that they planned to resume some in-class learning starting next week, many parents, students and staff were anticipating that they would be heading back to school.
But officials in Baden-Wuerttemberg, home to U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, on Thursday postponed Monday’s planned reopening of day care centers and primary schools after a mutation of the coronavirus was detected in a day care center in Freiburg. Test results were pending on nearly two dozen other infections reported in the state, they said in a statement Wednesday.
In Rheinland-Pfalz, home to Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases and U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland Pfalz, the education minister said Thursday that students would continue with remote learning after 13 new cases of a COVID-19 variant were detected in neighboring Baden-Wuerttemberg.
Elsewhere in Europe, Naval Air Station Rota in Spain said middle and high school students would begin remote instruction starting Monday as coronavirus cases in the local area increased “at an alarming rate.”
The base elementary school would remain open for in-person instruction, said Capt. David Baird, the naval station’s commanding officer.
The “podded nature of elementary classrooms minimizes contacts” at school and aids in rapid contact tracing, he said in a post on the base’s Facebook page Wednesday.