Back to school for all students in late August
Schools will reopen in full when the fall semester begin in late August, after a year of mixed online and in-person classes due to the pandemic.
Education Minister Yoo Eun-hye on Sunday announced plans to enable students to return to classrooms full-time from the second semester of the 2021 school year, in line with the government’s changes to social distancing guidelines.
Under the new plan, all school pupils will attend classes in person under the new Levels 1 and 2, or when average daily Covid-19 cases are fewer than 1,000 for a week. It is expected that students will be able to go school every day throughout the second semester, as the average caseload has never exceeded more than 1,000 this year.
Under Level 3, when average Covid-19 cases in a week are more than 1,000 and fewer than 2,000, schools are allowed to offer in-person teaching with attendance capped at three-fourths of normal class sizes for third to sixth graders, one third to two-thirds for middle schools and up to two-thirds for high schools.
Kindergartens, first and second grades, smaller schools, special education schools and vocational high schools will continue to be exempt from attendance limits up to the new Level 3.
In the final Level 4, when the virus caseload spikes up to more than 2,000, schools will have to switch to online classes.
The Education Ministry also announced that vaccinations of students and faculty will start in July.
High school seniors and high school teachers — those associated with the all-important college entrance exam in November, known as the CSAT — will be given Pfizer shots from the third week of July, while CSAT test takers who aren't seniors can get their first shots in August.
All other teachers — from daycare centers through middle schools — will be offered either Pfizer or Moderna shots from the third week of July.
The ministry will also institute some new rules for cafeterias.
Students will either have to sit one seat apart from each other or partitions will be installed in Levels 1 and 2, and both measures will be used from Level 3. The ministry is also considering allowing students to eat in their classrooms in schools that have small cafeterias.
The ministry set the first two weeks of the semester as an adaption period. Schools will offer simple types of meals during that period.
Schools with many students have to adopt staggered classroom shifts.
The ministry said it will announce detailed plans in July.
The ministry reiterated the importance of school attendance, after a study by the ministry showed that Korean students' academic performances dropped when they attended classes online during the pandemic.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]