Gas shortages could lead to the closure of German schools – official

Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger has called for schools to be classified as ‘critical infrastructure’ by winter

Schools and other educational institutions in Germany should be classified as essential infrastructure to avoid their closure this winter due to possible gas shortages, argued the country’s education minister.

Speaking to German newspaper Rheinische Post on Thursday, Bettina Stark-Watzinger said Olaf Scholz’s government should be a priority to ensure schools and universities stay open even if the country ends up running out of gas this winter.

« I campaigned during the [Covid-19] pandemic already for educational institutions to be designated as critical infrastructure,“, explained the minister.

Now that Russia has drastically reduced supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, and with talks of a complete shutdown in the future, »particular attention« must be paid to schools and universities in Germany, »so it’s not about class reductions or even cancellationin the winter, Stark-Watzinger warned.

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According to the official, educational establishments will however have to become more efficient in their energy consumption, and reassessments are already underway in many schools and universities.

Echoing the minister’s assessment, the head of the German Education and Science Workers’ Union, Maike Finnern, noted that many schools in the country are already energy efficient.

However, Finnern also acknowledged that there is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to older people, « sick” schools that are not sufficiently insulated.

The union representative welcomed the fact that the German government had included schools, as well as private households, in the « protected customers » category of its gas emergency plan.

This designation means that these areas will have priority in terms of gas supply in the event of a shortage.

Gas shipments to Europe by Russia’s Gazprom through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline fell to around 40% of capacity last month. Moscow claimed it was a direct result of Western sanctions, which prevented the return of some key equipment to Russia.

To make matters worse, the pipeline will go down completely for 10 days in mid-July for scheduled maintenance.


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