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S. Korea to ease attendance caps in schools despite extended social distancing measures

Sept. 5, 2021 - 11:52 By Yonhap
Middle students go to school to attend in-person classes in Jeju on Aug. 2 (Yonhap)
More South Korean students will be allowed to take in-person classes starting Monday as attendance cap restrictions in schools have been eased despite the extended distancing measures.

The Ministry of Education reaffirmed Thursday it will allow schools to expand in-person classes even under the Level 4 distancing scheme, the most stringent set of rules, as planned.

The ministry decided to ease the attendance caps in steps last month as schools began their fall semesters, citing the need to resume face-to-face interactions and the relatively safe environment of schools as long as attendance caps are in place.

The decision, which came despite four-digit increases in daily coronavirus infections for more than a month, reflected a consensus among teachers and education officials that the pandemic widened inequities in learning and in-person classes have benefits that outweigh infection risks among children.

The measure also took into consideration that working parents find it increasingly burdensome and exhausting to juggle work and child care during the day, and fully opening schools is a crucial step toward economic recovery.

Under the new guidelines, the cap on in-person attendance will increase to two-thirds for middle school students and to half or the entire student body for high school students in areas under Level 4.

First and second grade elementary students, as well as senior high school students, will attend in-person classes every day.  

Half of the total student body from third to sixth graders in elementary schools will be allowed to attend in-person classes, while kindergartens and schools for disabled children will be exempt from the attendance cap.

All schools in areas under the lower level distancing rules can resume in-person lessons full-time if virus transmissions in schools are considered to be manageable.

Currently, the greater Seoul area is under Level 4, while most regions out of the Seoul area are under Level 3. The health authorities decided Friday to maintain the distancing measures till Oct. 3, fearing a potential hike in COVID-19 infections during the five-day weekend that includes Chuseok, the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving. (Yonhap)