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SCHOOLS

Reader question: When do children in Austria go back to school?

While kids in other countries are preparing to head back to school, Austria still has a few more weeks off - but their return date depends on the state where they live.

Reader question: When do children in Austria go back to school?
Summer vacations are finished in many Swiss cantons. Photo by Arthur Krijgsman on Pexels

Summer holidays are almost over for children in some countries, such as Switzerland for example. But not in Austria.

While kids in Austria will be heading down the cost this Monday – a holiday – to enjoy the last few weeks of vacation, many Swiss schoolchildren will be with their books open and their attention (almost) entirely directed to the whiteboard.

In neighbouring Austria, though, August is a sacred holiday month for schools, and kids will only start their journey back to classes in September.

READ ALSO: Colder schools, fewer street lights: Austria prepares for a gas shortage

The exact date, though, will depend on where they live. Even if the back-to-school dates are different depending on the Austrian state, that doesn’t mean some kids get to have more time off.

This is because the summer holidays start one week earlier in some states, such as Burgenland, Lower Austria, and Vienna. Therefore, schools resume also one week before the rest of the country.

These are the exact days for the summer holidays in 2022:

  • Burgenland: from July 2nd to September 4th;
  • Lower Austria: from July 2nd to September 4th;
  • Vienna: from July 2nd to September 4th;
  • Carinthia: from July 9th to September 11th;
  • Upper Austria: from July 9th to September 11th;
  • Salzburg: from July 9th to September 11th;
  • Styria: from July 9th to September 11th;
  • Tyrol: from July 9th to September 11th;
  • Vorarlberg: from July 9th to September 11th.

READ ALSO: What is Austria’s Matura exam and why do some want it abolished?

How many holidays do kids in Austria have?

Schoolchildren in Austria are quite lucky compared to other countries, as they get plenty of vacations throughout the year.

Besides the bank holidays, children in public middle and higher schools (as well as private schools that follow public law) also get time off on these dates:

  • Autumn holidays: from October 27th to October 31st (in all states);
  • Christmas holidays: from December 24th to January 6th (in all states);
  • Semester break: from February 7th to February 12th in Lower Austria and Vienna, from February 14th to February 19th in Burgenland, Carinthia, Salzburg, Tyrol and Vorarlberg, and from February 21st to February 26th in Upper Austria and Styria;
  • Easter holidays: from April 9th to April 18th (in all states);
  • Pentecost holidays: from June 4th to June 6th (in all states).

These dates are for the school year of 2021/2022 and may vary from year to year, especially those holidays based on religious celebrations that also change yearly.

Due to the state regulations, the same dates usually apply to compulsory schools (primary schools, new secondary schools, special schools, polytechnic schools, vocational schools).

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is homeschooling legal in Austria?

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COVID-19 ALERT

What Covid-19 rules will be in place in Austrian schools?

After their long summer vacations, kids in Austria are almost ready to start their new school year. Will there be any Covid-19 restrictions?

What Covid-19 rules will be in place in Austrian schools?

Children and young students in Austria have been arguably one of the most affected groups during the Covid-19 pandemic, having been forced to study at home, wear masks in class and take mandatory PCR tests.

With the school year about to start in the country in September (September 5th in eastern Austria and on September 12th in the rest of the country), the federal government is yet to announce which specific measures, if any, will be in place for students.

READ ALSO: When do children go back to school in Austria?

The Ministry of Education says that there will be an “overall variant plan”, meaning that measures are likely to be put in place in case new coronavirus variants emerge that are deemed more dangerous. Still, the actual plan is “currently being prepared by the Ministry of Health with the involvement of all departments”.

The goal is to keep school rules the same as the ones that would apply in other public areas. The ministry said that the official plan with all the measures to be in force at the beginning of the school year should be announced next week.

No PCR tests on September 5th

It’s unlikely, though, that kids will be required to show negative PCR tests to go to school. At least those in the eastern states start classes in only two weeks. This is because large test laboratories such as Lead Horizon in Vienna won’t have time to prepare for mass testing, according to Austrian media reports.

It would still be possible for school children to take antigen tests before going back to classes, but there is currently no indication that this would be required of them.

READ ALSO: LATEST: The Covid rules across Austria from August 2022

Even in Western states, such as Salzburg, authorities have been against asking kids to test themselves before returning to school.

“If we don’t have to test anywhere, if we can, for example, go to an inn, to the Kirtag or the cinema, or even if one is allowed to go to work, then it is incomprehensible why we would start testing again only in the schools.” Salzburg’s Secretary for Education Daniela Gutschi (ÖVP) told broadcaster ORF.

What about face masks?

With masks, things get a bit more complicated. When he announced the government would drop the mask mandate in the country from June 1st, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) said Austria would “pause” the regulation.

He has been clear that it was likely that a mask mandate would be back in place by autumn, especially if coronavirus cases rose in the country.

Currently, people only need to wear masks inside health care establishments, such as hospitals and nursing homes, and on Viennese public transport. And, of course, if the person has tested positive for Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Austria to ‘pause’ Covid mask mandate from June 1st

Education Minister Martin Polaschek (ÖVP) had stated in early August that “if it is the case that masks have to be worn in public life, then the school sector will also join accordingly”. However, since there has been no indication that Austria will bring back a mask mandate in September, it’s not likely that Monday’s announcement will have it either.

What is more likely is that schools could take targeted measures. For example, imposing a mask mandate when there is a positive Covid-19 case in a specific class, as experts have mentioned.

How likely is it that schools will close?

This is perhaps the one thing that all parties and experts agree on: school closures like those that happened early in the pandemic are the absolute last resort.

Polaschek has already been clear, as has Rauch, that keeping schools open is the “highest priority”.

“School closures are the very, very last option. The Minister of Health has said quite clearly: that keeping schools open has a top priority. I see it the same way. I do not assume that we will close schools”, the education minister said.

Useful vocabulary

Masken – masks
Schulstart – school start
Schulschließungen – school closures
Bildungsminister – Education Minister
Gesundheitsminister – Health Minister

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