SEOUL, June 20 (Korea Bizwire) — Most South Korean pupils will be able to return to their classrooms full-time come fall, the Ministry of Education announced Sunday, inching toward a return to the pre-pandemic normal amid more vaccinations and growing concerns over the effects on children from a yearlong pandemic.
The plan was made in line with the government’s new, eased four-tier social distancing scheme, effective July 1, to allow businesses to stay open longer and permit gatherings of more people.
Under the eased social distancing plan, all school children will be able to get face-to-face instructions from the second semester up until Level 2, when daily caseloads are fewer than 1,000.
Currently, the greater Seoul area is under Level 2 social distancing of the five-tier system that requires most schools to cap attendance at two-thirds of the student body.
Under the new Level 2, schools are allowed to offer in-person teaching full-time, with attendance capped at two-thirds for middle and high schools and three-fourths for grade 3-6 at elementary schools.
Kindergartens and grade 1-2 at elementary schools will be exempt from attendance requirements up until Level 3 when daily caseloads are more than 1,000 and fewer than 2,000.
Given that virus cases have not surpassed the 1,000 mark since early January, students will be able to physically interact with teachers and their classmates most of the time, the ministry said.
Only when the country reports more than 2,000 daily infection cases nationwide, schools will switch to virtual full-time under the most stringent Level 4.
Schools with dense populations will be able to adopt staggered starting and finishing times or build makeshift classrooms to accommodate more students.
The ministry said it will announce detailed measures in July to reducing crowding to prevent the spread of the virus.
The ministry has been expanding in-person instruction, starting with vocational schools and middle schools in the greater Seoul area, citing a widening learning gap and confidence in containing virus’ spread in schools.