Schools go back online ahead of CSATs
With just one week until the national college entrance exams, all high schools switched back to remote classes Thursday as the country tries to prevent virus transmissions among students.
According to the Ministry of Education, all 2,378 high schools across the country halted in-person classes Thursday and will hold classes remotely until Wednesday, the day before the all-important national College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT). The decision was made to protect test takers and supervisors, and also allow the disinfection of some school sites that will be used as exam centers.
Most high school seniors in Seoul, Gyeonggi and Incheon — where the majority of Covid-19 infections have been reported — started remote classes Nov. 4. Some middle schools designated as testing sites will switch to online classes on Monday.
The ministry made it clear that this year’s CSAT will take place next Thursday as scheduled, even if infections surge and the government imposes emergency Covid-19 restrictions. Last year, the exam was postponed for two weeks due to a spike in infections.
It said it has procured additional hospital beds and testing centers through closely cooperation with metropolitan governments and related agencies to ensure students in hospital or in quarantine can take the test as well.
As of Tuesday, a total of 66 CSAT test takers had tested positive for Covid-19, according to the ministry. This surpassed the same number from last year, when 41 students were reported to be infected.
Students infected with the virus will take the exam in designated hospitals or residential treatment centers. The Education Ministry said they have set aside 383 hospital beds in 31 hospitals and residential treatment centers nationwide. Of them, a total of 219 hospital beds are prepared in the greater Seoul area — including 120 in Seoul, 83 in Gyeonggi and 16 in Incheon.
Students in quarantine will have to take the test separately in a designated exam center. The ministry said it has prepared a total of 620 rooms in 112 exam centers, where up to 3,099 can be accommodated. As of Tuesday, 12 test takers were expected to be in self-isolation on the test date, compared to last year’s 456 people.
Educational authorities urged anyone showing symptoms or who came into close contact with confirmed patients to get a PCR test, and report to the district education office immediately if their results are positive.
Covid-19 testing sites at public health centers will extend their closing time to 10 p.m. next Wednesday, the night before the exam. Test takers will be able to get tested immediately without waiting in line and get their test results shortly after.
Students developing Covid-19 symptoms and testing positive on the day of the exam will also be relocated to take the test in a hospital.
The authorities promised efforts to strengthen antivirus measures and add more healthcare personnel to prevent virus transmission ahead of the CSAT.
In cooperation with health officials, local governments and regional education offices, the ministry will conduct special on-site inspections in places frequented by students, such as PC bang (internet cafes), noraebang (singing rooms), hagwon (cram schools) until next Wednesday, with extra manpower of 2,350 personnel. The ministry strongly advised hagwon to not hold in-person lectures for test takers.
With this year’s CSAT being the second held during the pandemic, all test takers will have to wear masks at all times. Unlike last year, partitions will only be used during lunchtime.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]