schools in South Korea
How will the recent spike in South Korea's COVID-19 cases impact schools? Source: Yelim Lee/AFP

The South Korea Ministry of Education (MOE) announced its plan to reopen schools nationwide including all kindergartens, elementary, middle, high schools from May 20 onwards.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Yoo Eun-hae expressed her deep gratitude to all teachers for their efforts in preparing for the school reopening despite facing numerous obstacles, as well as parents for their unwavering support. 

“We are able to reopen schools as a result of the nationwide social distancing practices,” she said.

Yet the country’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases has left many parents uneasy about sending their child back to school.

“I think my wife and I should not let my daughter go to school until the recent rise in local transmissions shows signs of abating. Schools can be a hotbed for the virus as many people are in contact with each other,” said Kim Sang-yong, a father of an elementary school student in Songpa-gu, Seoul, as reported by Korea Times.

schools in South Korea

A worker sprays disinfectant in a classroom at a high school in Seoul on May 19, 2020. Source: Jung Yeon-je / AFP

Should schools open or should they close?

A recent report by Korea Times, quoting the Ministry of Education, said 838 schools among the total 20,902 nationwide that were supposed to resume their classes on the same day remained closed in cities such as Seoul, Bucheon in Gyeonggi Province and Gumi in North Gyeongsang Province. 

Another 117 schools in Seoul and 182 in Gumi postponed their reopening.

Branksome Hall Asia (BHA) in Seogwipo, Jeju Province, however, has been fully open since May 27.

BHA Marketing Director Eugine Oh told Study International, “Most of the recent surge of cases are centralised in the Seoul area, and the schools of the rest of Korea are still in the process carrying out their staggered reopening plans. Some grades only go to school once a week.”

Oh adds that Jeju has been relatively safe with a low density of population. 

“So we took a staggered approach as well and started welcoming higher grades early May. We also welcomed other grades over a couple of weeks,” she said.

schools in South Korea

A staff member greets students as they arrive at Kyungbock High School in Seoul on May 20, 2020. Hundreds of thousands of South Korean students returned to classes as schools started reopening after more than a two-month delay over the coronavirus outbreak. Source: Ed Jones/AFP

In South Korea, schools like BHA are analysing the pandemic’s impact on their province before making the decision to close their doors.

Yet as statistics show, the COVID-19 battle is not yet over for this East Asian nation. Because on June 3, 2020, there were 49 new cases and one new death in South Korea.

Therefore, the final decision may be made by parents as they decide whether or not it is safe to send their child back to school.

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