South Korea to resume school term in phases

May 4 (UPI) — South Korean public schools are to slowly reopen in stages as the COVID-19 situation stabilizes in the country.

Seoul’s Minister of Education Yoo Eun-hae said Monday at a press briefing the decision comes at a time when remote learning is being evaluated as less effective than in-class lessons that require students and teacher to interact in the same room, local television network MBC reported.

Yoo also suggested the decision to reopen schools factored in the burden on parents of taking care of younger children.

Students are to practice social distancing in classrooms. Thermal cameras will be installed on campuses to monitor body temperature, Seoul said.

If COVID-19 cases are reported, the affected school is to be ordered closed for 14 days and lessons will resume online, Seoul said.

Schools are to reopen on May 13, when high school seniors will be the first group to return to classrooms. The group has been classified as high priority as they prepare for South Korea’s highly competitive college entrance exams, according to local television network JTBC.

The youngest elementary school students and kindergartners are to follow a week later.

“At present, we are preparing for [a return to] school classes that manage the daily risks of infectious diseases,” Yoo said.

South Korea is officially ending its period of social distancing this week. On Wednesday, the country will switch to “distancing in everyday life,” a policy that will allow the reopening of public facilities, such as schools and state-run elder care services.

South Korea’s school term officially begins in March, but on-campus classes were suspended amid the coronavirus outbreak. Schools are reopening for the first time in 72 days.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun warned the relaxing of social distancing rules does not imply the risk of infections has disappeared.

“It is a compromise in order to resume economic and social activities,” Chung had said.

South Korea has reported less than 11,000 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak.

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