It is vital to maintain high vigilance against the new coronavirus and to gradually restore school life.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has notified boards of education nationwide of guidelines for the reopening of elementary, junior high, high and other schools from the start of a new semester. In response, the boards of education will prepare for school to resume in April.
Because the situations of infections differ from area to area in the country, a government panel of experts has called for decisions on school resuming to be made in accordance with local circumstances.
It would be a realistic approach to end the nationwide blanket suspension of classes and to bring back classes to full scale at local discretion.
Many children were forced to stay at home during closure, leading to irregular lifestyles and increasing stress. It is hoped that the start of the new semester is used as a springboard to get back to normal.
It will ease the burden on parents who have to take days off from work to take care of their children.
It is important to prevent mass infections in schools and to protect the health of children and local people.
According to the ministry’s guidelines, students and teachers should check their body temperatures every day, ventilate their classrooms, and wear masks during conversations. The guidelines also call for students to be instructed on washing hands.
Watch out for prejudice
People are urged to avoid situations that meet the three conditions of “poorly ventilated enclosed space,” “crowding of people” and “close-range conversation,” which are likely to cause mass infection when occurring simultaneously. It is also urged that creative measures be taken, such as students not sitting face to face during classes or lunches.
Schools and parents must be in close contact to ensure that information such as a student developing a fever is communicated smoothly.
At home, it is urged that students get enough sleep and eat a balanced diet to enhance their immune systems.
It is also necessary to pay attention to students who have become slow to learn due to the prolonged closure of schools. It is necessary to arrange supplementary lessons or to encourage students to study at home with appropriate homework.
If students and teachers are infected with the virus after schools are reopened, boards of education should not hesitate to suspend classes or close schools again. It is important to take measures to prevent the spread of infection in cooperation with public health centers.
It is worthwhile for each board and school to consider in advance what measures can be taken depending on the circumstances of those who may fall ill.
It is also necessary to prevent children from picking up discriminatory attitudes against those infected with the virus, their families and medical professionals. Teachers should keep eyes out for acts that could lead to prejudice and bullying, and provide appropriate guidance.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 25, 2020.