(ATTN: UPDATES with more info throughout)
SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will begin the new school year with online classes on April 9 following repeated delays due to the novel coronavirus, the prime minister said Tuesday.
The unprecedented move to introduce online classes will be applied step by step at schools, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said, without elaborating.
The new school year here usually starts in March, but the country had postponed it three times by five weeks to next Monday over concerns that schools are vulnerable to cluster infections of COVID-19.
Chung said online remote classes appear to be a viable alternative for students to learn and for schools to meet the statutory yearly school days.
"The government judged that it is reasonable to begin the new school year step by step, starting on April 9, to take into account preparation and help students adapt (to online classes)," Chung said at a pan-governmental meeting on response to the virus.
Calling for thorough preparations, the prime minister said all students should be granted computer access and connection to the internet.
Chung also hinted at the possibility that the state college entrance exam set for Nov. 19 would be delayed.
Despite the government's plan, there are concerns over whether education authorities can fully prepare the technical infrastructure needed for online remote classes.
South Korea reported 125 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing total infections to 9,786.
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