The Joseph König secondary school is in Haltern am See, north of Dusseldorf.
Returning from a week-long exchange trip, 16 Joseph König teenagers and two teachers were on the Germanwings flight which never arrived from Barcelona.
The school has been surrounded by police urging media to respect students’ general reluctance to speak out on camera.
The loss to the city of some 38,000 people drew reactions of disbelief as well as despair.
We spoke to people in the centre of town.
One man said: “I met somebody today who said he had a business meeting today and said, ‘I can’t cancel that, I have to attend, because life goes on.’ And that’s exactly what we need to do! It is very sad, but what can you do?”
A woman told us: “My three brothers all go to that school. I had to call them three or four times, to make sure they were home — it’s unbelievable! Everybody always says flying is the safest form of transport, and then something like this happens! It’s just unbelievable. My brothers look totally down.”
A couple said: “There just aren’t the words to say how everyone is concerned, it’s just unthinkable.”
A younger woman said: “Everybody knows everybody here, and even if you didn’t know the victims personally, you’ve seen them sometimes at school. I imagine it’s unbelievably difficult for the relatives, but I’m happy the town is sticking together.”
Flags are at half-mast and churches have stayed open.
The students — in the 10th grade — were aged 15 and 16. They drew lots to see who could go on the trip to Llinars del Valles near Barcelona.
Media cited the Joseph König principal as saying the tragedy made people speechless. Classes and exams have been cancelled.
Our correspondent Olaf Bruns summed up: “There is an impressive silence here at the school, a need to reflect, gather together and mourn. Younger pupils, too, are standing in silent tribute at the school, where candles have been placed. One of them who didn’t want to appear on camera told me he can’t cry because he still can’t believe what happened.”