SEJONG, Feb. 2 (Korea Bizwire) — The day elementary school classrooms sitting empty and unused are once again teeming with children may not be too far off, with the Ministry of Education confirming on February 1 that a framework detailing the push to repurpose empty school rooms into preschools and childcare centers passed review in a meeting held at the central government complex in Seoul.
The government has previously weathered criticism for failing to clearly outline the various complexities that would need to be resolved for the classroom-to-preschool initiative to be fulfilled.
At the February 1 meeting, the Ministry of Education decided that empty classrooms will serve as kindergartens that can also assume the role of preschool and childcare centers.
Currently, there are 22 preschools established in elementary schools nationwide. Half are in Busan, with Seoul, Incheon, Ulsan and Gyeonggi Province respectively holding six, three, one and one.
Also concluded at the meeting was a deadline of March for guidelines laying out stipulations regarding facilities management, safety requirements and responsibilities and layout and usage of space; the authorities will undertake a study of the preschools and childcare centers in operation to compile their report.
Some of the expected bullet points in the March guidelines are the need for separate entrances to the hybrid preschools from the main doors of the elementary school building, and establishing clear boundaries in the school for the younger children and upperclassmen.
Going forward, the varying levels of government will look to get on the same page in regard to their classification of “empty classrooms” and specifically which ones are to be considered serviceable as preschools.
The Ministry of Education, municipalities, regional education offices and schools all employ differing requirements for defining empty classrooms.
For instance, the Ministry of Education has declared an empty classroom one that is “used less than once a month or nine times in a year”, but the Gyeonggi Province Office of Education classifies them more ambiguously as “classrooms currently in use that can be repurposed to fill other needs”.
A Ministry of Education official said, “[The ministry] will derive supportive measures in administrative and financial terms after extensive discussion with schools.
The official added that a legislative bill incorporating the ministry’s findings will be presented at the National Assembly in a few months’ time.
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)