The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education has decided to roll back on its school rebuilding project for nine schools in the capital, after it came under mounting pressure from parents who said it put their children’s safety and education at risk.
The Seoul education office said Wednesday that it has excluded the nine schools, which had officially requested a withdrawal, from the list of 93 schools that were selected for the Green Smart Future School project. The plan involves rebuilding or renovating schools built more than 40 years ago.
“The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education has been putting effort to figure out each school’s situation while humbly accepting the criticism that it did not receive enough feedback from each school’s members,” Seoul Education Superintendent Cho Hee-yeon said.
“We understand each school’s difficulty caused by the rebuilding project and the concerns of the parents for their students’ allocation during the construction period, so we made a difficult decision to resolve conflicts at schools and respect the opinion of the schools.”
The rollback from the education authority came after parents of the selected schools criticized the plan, saying that the project would put their children’s education and safety at risk.
The parents protested the move by sending condolence wreaths or ribbons to the schools and holding press conferences in front of the SMOE.
They argued that the students would be forced to move to a different school during the construction period or be exposed to a hazardous environment when studying in temporary modular buildings that would be set up in the schoolyard. They also said they were not sufficiently consulted on the project.
However, three of the nine schools with a Level C in a five-tier scale on structural safety will have to undergo a thorough safety checkup, according to the SMOE.
If any school ends up with a Level D or E, at which the buildings are considered unsafe and vulnerable to disasters, they would inevitably have to be redeveloped or renovated, the office said.
Parents will also have a say in the entire process, such as being able to choose which company to conduct onsite safety tests, the SMOE said.
Regarding the six schools that are now off the list of the Green Smart Future School project, the Seoul Education said it will fill in the vacancies by going through another round of selections among schools built more than 40 years ago.
“In order for the project to be smoothly carried out, we will put more efforts into active communication with schools and parents through briefing sessions and meetings,” Cho said.
Last month, the Seoul education office announced its selection of 93 schools for the makeover project in the capital.
The education authority said the schools were selected based on various factors including the building’s age, safety grade, earthquake-resistance and level of asbestos, a natural mineral found in old buildings that is known to have harmful effects on the lung.
If any other school wishes to be taken off the Green Smart Future School project, the SMOE said, they can send an official request to the Seoul education office for review.
By Kan Hyeong-woo (firstname.lastname@example.org