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(LEAD) Seoul education office issues guidelines for school reopening

All Headlines 17:51 May 18, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS superintendent's remarks in paras 4-7, 10-11, photo)

SEOUL, May 18 (Yonhap) -- Seoul educational authorities announced guidelines for school operations on Monday, as the country prepares to reopen schools with new coronavirus infections slowing down.

In a phased reopening plan, high school seniors will return to school on Wednesday and younger students will follow gradually until June 8.

Schools delayed the start of the new semester set for early March and have been offering online classes since last month.
"In order to minimize the possibility of infection, we request all schools to exercise greater caution about wearing masks, ventilating frequently and maintaining distance," Superintendent Cho Hee-yeon of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said during a news conference.

He said if the coronavirus crisis worsens again, schools should return to remote learning. He called on the education ministry to leave open the possibility of delaying the national college entrance examination.

The test, originally scheduled for Nov. 19, has been delayed by two weeks to Dec. 3.

A teacher conducts an online class in an empty classroom at Borame Elementary School in Seoul on May 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

During the news conference, the Seoul education office issued a set of recommendations on detailed measures for distancing and sanitation.

It suggested schools switch between classroom and distance teaching for all levels of students, except high school seniors. The office said schools will be allowed to choose from diverse options on how to divide classes.

Parents of elementary students will be allowed to conduct home schooling for up to 34 days.

"The most worrisome thing in in-person teaching is the problem of overcrowding." Seoul's top educational official said,

He noted in the capital, 87 schools are overcrowded, with more than 30 students per class.

Superintendent Cho Hee-yeon (L) announces guidelines for school operations at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education on May 18, 2020. (Yonhap)

The guidelines require schools to take the temperatures of all students and teachers twice a day. If any coronavirus case occurs, that school will be closed and classes will move online.

The office has installed thermal imaging cameras in all 1,366 elementary, middle and high schools in the city.

It has distributed five facial masks per student and three per school staff member.

For a week before returning to school, students are required to check their health conditions and report them to schools every day.

The office also recommended schools stagger lunch time while having students sit in one direction and apart from each other to minimize their contacts.

The education office plans to deploy personnel to schools to support the enforcement of the safety guidelines.
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