I am glad to meet you all. As education authorities, school staff and parents all must have immense concerns over the reopening of classrooms, I have come to a school to check for myself. Having visited and looked around, I believe you have little to worry about.
The primary concern for parents is always their children’s health and education. Only when schools adhere to infectious disease prevention and control against this virus will parents feel at ease and academic schedules also be able to proceed without disruptions.
Moreover, the success of distancing in daily life – maintaining infectious disease prevention and control amid everyday routines – will depend on the success of such prevention and control at school. It will only be possible when schools, households and quarantine authorities pull together. Today, I’d like us to share insights for the health of our children and the success of infectious disease prevention and control efforts at school.
Since schools started the new semester online, students, parents and teachers have all had immense difficulties. With the normal back-to-school date postponed, all of them have had to go about their daily lives in an entirely new, unfamiliar environment. During this period, however, parents and students have all held up well.
I extend my gratitude to teachers, students and parents for enabling education to continue even while using new, unfamiliar methods and for working to prevent the spread of infections within local communities.
It has already been 70 days since our children couldn’t go to their schools after a closure order on March 2. Students from double-income, grandparent-headed and multicultural families might have found it hard to keep up with online classes on their own, and there are also difficulties in providing day care to many children. Moreover, students with disabilities and those who study the arts, physical education and other subjects involving onsite practice face limitations when they only have online classes.
In particular, the psychological burden on high school seniors will be beyond description as they have to prepare for the College Scholastic Ability Test and college admissions amid curtailed academic schedules.
The Government will reopen schools starting with high school seniors and simultaneously provide online classes to prepare for any possible occurrence of confirmed cases. I’m still concerned about our students’ health, but I’m convinced that if we properly follow infectious disease prevention and control guidelines together, we will be able to overcome the risks stemming from reopening schools.
The Government, local education offices, schools and local governments are working together to help prepare a normal school life while completely eliminating the risk of infections. We’ve carried out special disinfections for all schools and injected 90 billion won to provide infectious disease prevention and control supplies such as thermometers, hand sanitizers, thermal imaging cameras and face masks.
We’ve rearranged desks at schools to keep a proper distance and taken additional safeguards by installing partitions on tables at school cafeterias and separate rooms for those with a fever. In addition, we’ve also conducted mock trainings in preparation for an occurrence of confirmed cases.
Now, schools are the frontlines of infectious disease prevention and control. In addition to complying with basic guidelines, such as wearing face masks, distancing and washing hands, other thorough management practices are necessary like ventilating and routinely disinfecting classrooms. Amidst all of this, I ask you to work to minimize inconveniences for students.
Schools with an occurrence of new confirmed cases will immediately switch to online classes. The Government will strive to improve the quality of online classes and make educational content more substantive.
Cooperation from households is also important. If parents find out that their children have a fever through self-diagnosis, they should keep them home, and schools and infectious disease prevention and control authorities – based on cooperation – should ensure swift diagnostic testing and epidemiological tracing.
I ask parents and schools to actively share information about students who have other illnesses as well. In particular, I ask schools to make special efforts to protect students’ personal information.
I hope that children can understand and begin to feel that showing others consideration through distancing is something they need to do for themselves. It’s regrettable that they’ve been denied the chance to feel the excitement of the first day at a new school, but I ask everyone to work together to turn these unusual experiences into special memories for them. Let’s pull together and make their school life safe with the firm determination to not allow even one infection.