Going back to school in September?KIM HYUN-YE
The author is a P Team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Full-time in-person instruction is set to resume in September. As a parent, do you welcome the news, or are you more worried? It was reported that Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Education Yoo Eun-hye said the government is planning for all students’ in-person instruction to resume from September.
Now that wearing a mask has become a part of our daily lives, children get to finally go to school every day. But parents’ responses are mixed. Those who have been worrying about leaving kids alone at home while working, or who were concerned about their children having trouble learning, welcome the change. But some are not sure whether their children can go to school every day as positive cases are not decreasing.
Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) Commissioner Jung Eun-kyeong played a key role in opening schools that had been shut during the pandemic. In a paper, she wrote that the loss from closing schools was greater than the benefit. Jung worked with the medical research team at Hallim University to study the 127 positive cases of patients between age 3 and 18 between May and July 2020, and only three, or 2 percent, contracted the virus at school. Critics blamed her for implementing the policy to close schools in the first place.
It is not the first time that full-time in-person instruction has been mentioned. In late January, Yoo mentioned two conditions for reopening schools. The first was community risk and the other was vaccination status. She made the latest remarks in that context with new strings attached: Vaccinations for school staff should be complete by the end of the summer.
Coincidentally, it was reported that the United States was also considering resuming full-time in-person instruction. According to the New York Times, 35 percent of the U.S. population has completed the second dose as of May 12, while 46 percent have received the first jab.
As nearly half of citizens have received the first shot, the United States is in the process of discussing safe commuting and classroom density, including inoculations for teens to ensure herd immunity. At the same time, just 1.3 percent of the Korean population has completed vaccination, and 7.2 percent has received the first dose. I hope the Education Minister’s declaration that in-person instruction will return in September won’t end up revealing the bare face of Korean disease control relying on masks and social distancing alone.