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Cram schools feared to become virus hotbed

A student stands in front of a private cram school building in Mokdong, southwestern Seoul, Monday. Yonhap
A student stands in front of a private cram school building in Mokdong, southwestern Seoul, Monday. Yonhap

By Bahk Eun-ji

Concerns are growing over private cram schools as more and more infections are being reported among students studying there, according to education officials, teachers and parents Monday.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE) said an older sister of a second grader from Yangchung High School in Mokdong, southwestern Seoul, tested positive for the virus, Sunday.

Although the second grader tested negative, not only the private institutions he went to but also others ones in the Mokdong neighborhood have been closed to prevent the spread of the virus.

quarantine official disinfects a classroom at a private cram school in Mokdong, Seoul, Monday, after a family member of a high school student, who studied at a private institute in the region, tested positive for COVID-19 the previous day. Yonhap
quarantine official disinfects a classroom at a private cram school in Mokdong, Seoul, Monday, after a family member of a high school student, who studied at a private institute in the region, tested positive for COVID-19 the previous day. Yonhap

Earlier on Yeouido, two middle school students tested positive for COVID-19 after an instructor at the academy they went to was confirmed to be infected May 27. Nearly 50 private institutions in a block where the instructor worked had to be closed, and two elementary schools near the building were also temporarily shuttered and rescheduled their opening for face-to-face classes.

Private cram schools are especially vulnerable to infection clusters as many students from different neighborhoods and different schools are gathered in the same place. In the case of Mokdong, parents there were particularly concerned as it is one of the regions known for its abundance of private institutions, alongside Gangnam and Nowon districts in Seoul. According to data from Korean Educational Statistics Software (KESS), 215,700 students attend nearly 1,000 private cram schools in Yangcheon District where Mokdong is located.

"There are a number of large private institutions with more than 1,000 students attending here in Yangcheon, and I am seriously wondering if they comply with quarantine and distancing rules with so many students. Even if schools conduct disinfection work well, it is only a matter of time before the virus spreads to the local community when it occurs at private academies," said Yi Na-kyeong, 46, a mother of two middle school students in Mokdong.

Some parents said, however, many students have already begun attending academies and they can't put off their everyday life outside the home any longer.

"Attending schools and private institutions in person is totally different from just attending online classes. Students can go to school if more careful disinfection and quarantine measures are conducted there just like in schools," said Jang Hyo-jin, a mother of a high school freshman in Nowon District.

To alleviate parents' worries, the education ministry and regional education offices released tightened guidelines for private cram schools to prevent possible group transmissions. Under the advisory, local and provincial governments will impose a ban on group activities at such institutions that are found to have breached the guidelines on virus prevention.


A student stands in front of a private cram school building in Mokdong, southwestern Seoul, Monday. Yonhap
A student stands in front of a private cram school building in Mokdong, southwestern Seoul, Monday. Yonhap

By Bahk Eun-ji

Concerns are growing over private cram schools as more and more infections are being reported among students studying there, according to education officials, teachers and parents Monday.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE) said an older sister of a second grader from Yangchung High School in Mokdong, southwestern Seoul, tested positive for the virus, Sunday.

Although the second grader tested negative, not only the private institutions he went to but also others ones in the Mokdong neighborhood have been closed to prevent the spread of the virus.

quarantine official disinfects a classroom at a private cram school in Mokdong, Seoul, Monday, after a family member of a high school student, who studied at a private institute in the region, tested positive for COVID-19 the previous day. Yonhap
quarantine official disinfects a classroom at a private cram school in Mokdong, Seoul, Monday, after a family member of a high school student, who studied at a private institute in the region, tested positive for COVID-19 the previous day. Yonhap

Earlier on Yeouido, two middle school students tested positive for COVID-19 after an instructor at the academy they went to was confirmed to be infected May 27. Nearly 50 private institutions in a block where the instructor worked had to be closed, and two elementary schools near the building were also temporarily shuttered and rescheduled their opening for face-to-face classes.

Private cram schools are especially vulnerable to infection clusters as many students from different neighborhoods and different schools are gathered in the same place. In the case of Mokdong, parents there were particularly concerned as it is one of the regions known for its abundance of private institutions, alongside Gangnam and Nowon districts in Seoul. According to data from Korean Educational Statistics Software (KESS), 215,700 students attend nearly 1,000 private cram schools in Yangcheon District where Mokdong is located.

"There are a number of large private institutions with more than 1,000 students attending here in Yangcheon, and I am seriously wondering if they comply with quarantine and distancing rules with so many students. Even if schools conduct disinfection work well, it is only a matter of time before the virus spreads to the local community when it occurs at private academies," said Yi Na-kyeong, 46, a mother of two middle school students in Mokdong.

Some parents said, however, many students have already begun attending academies and they can't put off their everyday life outside the home any longer.

"Attending schools and private institutions in person is totally different from just attending online classes. Students can go to school if more careful disinfection and quarantine measures are conducted there just like in schools," said Jang Hyo-jin, a mother of a high school freshman in Nowon District.

To alleviate parents' worries, the education ministry and regional education offices released tightened guidelines for private cram schools to prevent possible group transmissions. Under the advisory, local and provincial governments will impose a ban on group activities at such institutions that are found to have breached the guidelines on virus prevention.


Bahk Eun-ji ejb@koreatimes.co.kr

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