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School reopening pushed back again


The South Korean government announced Monday that the reopening of schools, scheduled to begin Wednesday with high school seniors, would be delayed by another week amid a spike in new infections linked to bars and clubs in Seoul’s popular party district.

High school seniors are to return to school first on May 20, a week later than scheduled. Under the new plan, students in the second year of high school, third year of middle school and first two years of elementary school will go back to school on May 27.

In-person classes will resume for students in their first year at high school and second year at middle school and in the third and fourth years at elementary school on June 3. Schools will reopen for the rest on June 8.

Kindergartens will open on May 27.

The college entrance exam, rescheduled for Dec. 3, will take place as planned if high school seniors start going back to school within May, said Education Vice Minister Park Baeg-beom at a briefing Monday.

Last week, the government announced plans to reopen kindergartens and schools, starting with third-year students at high school Wednesday, as the country’s new cases hovered around 10 since mid-April and most of them came from overseas.

But Korea has been put back on alert by the emergence of a new cluster of infections, with a total of 86 cases linked to bars and clubs in Itaewon as of noon Monday.

Earlier in the day, Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Jeong Eun-kyeong and Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae held a video conference call to discuss the risks of sending children back to school at this point.

Parents have called on the government to postpone the resumption of offline schools or allow them to decide whether to send their children back to school amid safety concerns.

“My children’s health and safety are my priority. Students returning to school should be delayed. I would not send my kids back to school,” said Kim Ji-young, the mother of a 9-year-old child. “I would rather hope schools open again in September.”

Several petitions opposing children returning to school have been uploaded on the presidential office’s website, with the petitioners asking the government to allow parents to decide whether to send them back to school. The petitioned gathered more than 180,000 signatures combined as of 4 p.m. Monday.

The superintendents of education offices of Seoul and Gyeonggi Province also suggested taht reopening schools should be delayed, citing students’ safety should come first.

By Ock Hyun-ju (