While thoroughly preventing children from being infected, it is also required to provide an adequate study environment. It can be said that people in the education field are tasked with a tough challenge.
The governments of Tokyo and Osaka Prefecture will extend the period of school closures for schools such as high schools and integrated junior high and high schools until May 6, the last day of the upcoming long holiday. The decision was made after many people were being confirmed to have the new coronavirus on a daily basis.
In many cases, high school students use public transportation such as trains and buses to go to school. Extending the duration for school closures apparently aims at mitigating the risk of infection as much as possible.
The metropolitan government has asked public elementary and junior high schools to take similar measures. A multitude of ward boards of education are expected to act on the request.
One month has passed since the blanket introduction of school closures. Children have been placed under stress by having fewer opportunities to see friends and play with them. Their daily rhythm is likely to become disturbed.
There must be children who have been considerably shocked by the decision to continue school closures, because they had expected to be able to go to school at the beginning of the new school term.
Above all, April is a season that has important meaning for school students as it marks the beginning of a new school year. New first-graders need to get used to a new environment and classmates. It is also a time for new classes and immediately follows a large-scale relocation of teachers.
It is indispensable to work on measures to minimize anxiety among children.
Public elementary and junior high schools in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, which have been closed, will designate dates for attendance every three days, splitting children by grade to offer them study guidance. Measures for preventing infection will be taken, such as reducing their time at school to half-days and placing them into smaller classes.
Through these efforts to preserve school life, it is expected children can become familiar with a new school environment even just a bit.
There is also concern over the curriculum lagging behind schedule due to the continuation of school closures. Third-graders at high and junior high schools — preparing to take entrance exams for university and high school — must be worried about the situation. It is important to support home learning through efforts including giving assignments with study goals and utilizing online study materials.
Each school is required to revise its annual curriculum and reschedule events. One of the options will be managing to secure class hours by curtailing long summer holidays and the like.
Boards of education and schools are urged to present a future course to the extent that is possible, thus easing the anxiousness of guardians and children.
As the domestic situation of infections varies from region to region, not a few municipalities where fewer infected patients have been found plan to resume school in April. When it comes to restarting classes, children should receive firm instructions including taking their temperature every day and washing their hands frequently.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Apr. 3, 2020.