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Education Ministry moves to soothe schools upset with new ‘normalcy attendance’ rules

Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae speaks during a meeting held Thursday at the governmental complex in central Seoul. (Yonhap)
Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae speaks during a meeting held Thursday at the governmental complex in central Seoul. (Yonhap)
The Education Ministry has shared additional details to the guidelines of its new “normalcy attendance” scheme for the new semester, apparently taken aback by criticism of the plans.

On Monday, the ministry had announced that schools would move to “normalcy” in attendance measures for the new semester. Under the new measure, schools can flexibly change their attendance policy based on a new four-stage plan suggested by the ministry.

The new plan, however, has been met with criticism from educational workers, who say it puts the burden of preventing infectious disease spread on teachers and school staff, instead of the relevant authorities.

Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae held a meeting Thursday at the governmental complex in central Seoul, discussing the new attendance measures with deputy directors of 17 education offices across the nation.

“It is true schools will have to take more responsibility, but (the ministry) would not pass on the entire responsibility to schools,” Yoo said.

As the new measure requires teachers to track and trace the footsteps of confirmed cases in schools, teachers unions have stressed that the new protocol puts the burden of prevention to schools.

In response to the complaint, Yoo said the new measure comes as “the disease control authorities cannot carry out the epidemiological investigations as they did in the past,” adding schools will not be held legally responsible for the investigation processes and results.

“The ministry will support schools by deploying up to 70,000 additional workers to help health teachers and infectious disease control at schools,” Yoo said. “There will also be an emergency response team to work under cooperation with education offices.”

Health teachers are similar to school nurses but have full teaching qualifications.

The new attendance measure will have schools to go hybrid with online and offline classes if more than 3 percent of students are confirmed as having COVID-19 in a day or if the number of those who have been restricted from attending classes surpasses 15 percent.

Students who have come in close contact with a confirmed case in school will be required to take a rapid antigen test three times in seven days before they are allowed to attend classes in-person. Teachers are to supervise the distribution of the test kits and the reporting of the results, although the ministry has not yet given information about how kits will be issued. 

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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