Students are on way to classes at an elementary school in Seoul, Wednesday. (Yonhap)
From May 1, schools in Korea will resume normal operations under new guidelines.
Schools will adapt “normalcy attendance” measures, meaning face-to-face classes will be held and online classes will be reserved for special circumstances.
Extracurricular activities, such as field trips and group events, will be allowed. Self-testing routines will be dropped, too. The mask mandate, however, will be maintained at least until the end of the semester.
The Ministry of Education announced the “back to normal” guidelines to support schools in post-omicron variant times.
“With the government lifting social distancing schemes from Monday, we are going back to our daily lives,” Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said during a briefing held at the government complex in central Seoul on Wednesday.
“In reflection of the COVID-19 infectious disease level going down a notch, the Education Ministry will support schools to return to normalcy,” Yoo said.
Schools will maintain their disease control and prevention measures until the end of this month, while they prepare to implement the new protocols.
The first three weeks of May have been designated as the “transition stage,” followed by the “settlement stage.”
Schools will adapt the normal attendance routine from May 1, when the transition stage begins, reintroducing both academic and extracurricular activities for all students.
Afterschool classes and child care programs will resume. Schools can run multiday field trips for students, after consulting with students, parents and regional education offices.
In the settlement stage, if disease control authorities drop the seven-day isolation rule for those who are confirmed of COVID-19, infected students would take end-of-term exams in-person. However, it is unclear whether the confirmed students will be allowed to attend face-to-face classes.
“We are discussing the details with education offices and the disease control authorities. We will make an announcement before May 23,” said Lee Sang-su, director of the School Innovation Support Office.
Though the ministry will maintain the disease control protocol for schools in concern of the virus wave, some guidelines will be relaxed.
Since the beginning of the semester in March, the ministry had recommended students to test themselves to prevent the spread of the virus at schools. Though education offices are to decide the self-testing routine for each school from May, most will not recommend the testing as not many schools have purchased enough kits for all students.
Only those with symptoms and high-risk groups with underlying health conditions will be recommended to test themselves once if there is a confirmed case in the same class.
The mask mandate for indoors will not be dropped until the end of the first semester. However, students can wear masks rated under KF-80, such as hygiene masks, from May.
The Education Ministry will maintain some rules, including the temperature check routine before entering classrooms and cafeterias, installation of plastic dividers at cafeterias and disinfection of facilities at least once a day.
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org)