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Schools reopen for high school seniors amid lingering virus fears

All News 09:16 May 20, 2020

SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- Schools finally reopened Wednesday after a monthslong closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, putting to the test the government ability to control outbreaks at schools.

In a phased reopening plan, high school seniors became the first group to attend in-person classes, while the rest, including preschoolers, will follow until June 8.

Also small schools nationwide with fewer than 60 students reopened. In the sparsely populated Gangwon Province, there are 170 such schools, including 46 elementary schools.

In the runup to the opening Wednesday, education and health officials have been busy preparing for the reopening in the safest possible manner amid an active outbreak.

The education ministry has put in place quarantine and isolation protocols and provided schools with a response manual with seven checkpoints, in a bid to reduce any confusion for teachers and students.

Students enter school in Seoul on May 20, 2020. (Yonhap)

The rules read out by Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae during a Tuesday briefing are to check the physical condition of students every day, stay home from school when feeling sick, wipe desks every morning, open windows for ventilation, wear masks except for at lunch time, wash hands for 30 seconds and inform school nurses immediately when feeling sick.

Despite sporadic outbreaks of COVID-19, the government has been showing confidence in managing the reopening, especially after 57 teachers and school officials who visited nightclubs in the popular nightlight district Itaewon, a recent hotbed of coronavirus infection, tested negative.

For high school seniors, in-person classes are important in the runup to the national university entrance exam slated for November. In the case of households where the parents are both working, school reopening is also a pressing matter.

"I understand that this is not an easy path we are on, but we have to go through this one time, as it is uncertain when the COVID-19 pandemic might end," the minister said. "The ministry and relevant education offices will try our best and respond swiftly to whatever comes along."

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