South Korean students are returning to their classrooms after a long break of five months due to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. This step was taken by the government after health officials observed slow spread and declared that the country may have avoided a “second wave” of infections.
Educational institutions are set to open in stages with high school students returning first on Wednesday and middle and elementary students joining them in the following weeks. Educational officials said that the third-year high school students are leading the return as they now only have half a year before their annual university entrance exams in early December.
In South Korea, the academic year starts in March, but students never returned to school after their winter break as the country was hit by the coronavirus crisis in late January and soon saw a surge in the total number of COVID-19 cases reported daily. The opening up of schools was delayed five times due to the highly infectious virus and in April, all students were offered online classes instead.
The country quickly readied itself to fight the novel virus and launched a massive testing and contact tracing campaign. On Tuesday, 13 new coronavirus cases were reported, raising the total number of cases to 11,078.
“There are still worries over safety of our students, but the situation of the community spread is within the capacity of our health care system,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said before a meeting Tuesday. “If we, the government, school and families, act together, we could restart the off-line classes safely.”
The government has released a detailed set of instructions for students returning to schools.
Depending on the school district, schools will start on different days and students will alternate between attending classes and online instructions at home. Class times and lunch hours are also being staggered. No extracurricular activities will be allowed.