By Ludger Fittkau

Buying air filter systems is only one thing. The other is: systems need to be maintained. It also costs money. (Deutschlandradio / Ludger Fittkau)

After a first hesitation, the schools ask for filtration systems. In Hesse, there is state and federal government money for this. But funds are not enough for all classes. For those who do not have a filter, the motto is always: Ventilez!

Katja Wecker opens the door to a school hallway, which leads to a large common room – the so-called “action center”. Information boards about Anne Frank hang on the walls. Because Hanau Primary School, where up to 360 students from 25 nations are educated, is named after the world-famous newspaper writer who was assassinated by the National Socialists in 1945. Katja Wecker is the head of the school. She moves forward in the “center of action”, the communication room without an exterior window.

Two air filters about a meter long purr on the ceiling:

“They were installed at the beginning of the year. Because this room is difficult to ventilate here, as you can see. And that is why the city of Hanau installed it here. We only had one ventilation system up there. It wasn’t quite enough. And then Heraeus made those air filters available. “

Heraeus – this is the name of a technology company from Hanau that produces the air filters that can clean the ambient air in the “Action Center” of the Anne Frank school four times almost completely from viruses in about one time. For the director Katja Wecker, it is happy that the company also maintains the filtering systems in consultation with the city as school authority:

“Before it was integrated, the biggest fear was that the noise level would be too high. But I was told it looked like a working refrigerator. operations not at all. “

Growing demand from schools

“The state government has been dealing with this issue since last fall, in October and November,” says Philipp Bender. He is one of the spokespersons for the Hessian Ministry of Culture in Wiesbaden. There is still enough money to install filtration systems, especially in hard-to-ventilate rooms, he points out:

“It started first with a ten million euro program, which then merged into a 75 or 100 million euro program, if you add the own contribution of the school authorities, with which we are fundamentally improving the hygiene of classrooms and also in daycares which are part of it. “

Only around 60 million euros have already been spent, according to Philipp Bender. However, the Ministry of Culture has seen an increasing demand for high-quality filtering systems from school authorities, especially in recent weeks. At first they hesitated:

“There has been an overhaul among school authorities. We have already noticed that in the last few weeks and months, at least now, for example, in grades 1 to 6 – in Frankfurt you have heard that in Wiesbaden, but also in other school areas of authority – at least fully equip these classes with it. “

Parents request filters for all classes

The Hessian state program alone would not be enough to install high-quality filtering systems in all classrooms of all state primary schools, such as in Hanau, the ministry spokesperson stressed. Culture. But the federal government also gives money. 200 million euros must be made available. But that is not enough to equip all classrooms in this country with high-quality filtering systems. But that’s exactly what a lot of parents want. For example Tina Vieweber, president of the Offenbach District Parent Advisory Council on the SAT 1 TV channel:

“We just hope that there will be no more school closures. This is what hangs like a threatening cloud above that most parents are really afraid of. It is in no way what should. happen, let it close again. School closures are coming. Students have suffered so much and pocketed so much during the pandemic, so you should take the money now and invest in air filters. “

Many parenting initiatives in this country have been collecting money for a long time to pay for air filters out of their own pocket and make them available to schools. We mainly buy mobile air filters. This helps in the short term, says ministry spokesperson Philipp Bender:

“The Federal Environment Agency also says that portable air filters are a good thing, it can help. But they generally recommend – and this is also the goal of the other federal funding program – systems ventilation systems, which also generally help against the cold and flu viruses, which still circulate in schools. Just as in daycare centers in the fall. “

Air filters also help against flu and other viruses

This is also the view of Tina Vieweber, chair of the Offenbach District Parent Advisory Council:

“We also see the purchase of air filtering devices or room air filters as an investment for the future. Regardless of Corona, there will always be waves of the virus or the flu which will then be less likely. in the classroom.”

It is unlikely that all classrooms in Germany will quickly be fitted with air filter systems. This is mainly due to the money, but not only. For example, the question of who will maintain the air filter in the long term has not been clarified. In the case of permanently installed air filters in the Hanau Anne Frank school, this is done by the city as school authority in cooperation with the manufacturer. Philipp Bender from the Ministry of Culture of Hesse:

“That would actually be a long-term solution, as other devices could end up in the trash at some point next year.”

Because they are broken and there are no maintenance staff. “And then several million euros were invested in vain. That is why a long-term solution is of course the best solution with proper maintenance, which the state is currently supporting through the funding program.”

Ventilate every 20 minutes

At the Anne Frank school in Hanau, too, the city now has to ensure the long-term maintenance of the filtration systems permanently installed in the “Action Center”. All other classrooms will also have to do without air filters in the future. There is only one way out: every 20 minutes, open the window and ventilate:

“Children are very careful about this. When the weather is nice, of course we have the windows and doors open all the time. And when it’s cold, then of course it’s a challenge. Children in particular, who are sitting at the window, sit with us Jacket and hat there. But there is no other way to do it. “