|A teacher gives a lecture through online at Gyeonggi Academy of Foreign Languages in Uiwang City, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday. /Yonhap|
By Bahk Eun-ji
More than 70 percent of teachers of kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools here are expressing concerns over the April 6 start of the new school year with the delayed spring semester, amid lingering concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey showed Sunday.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) delayed the spring semester by five weeks amid the spread of the highly-contagious coronavirus and schools are set to begin their academic year that day.
According to the Good Teacher Movement, an organization of teachers and educational research center, which conducted the online survey of 4,002 teachers at kindergartens, and elementary and secondary schools nationwide for two days from March 26, 73 percent of respondents said the MOE should extend the school closures due to fear of infection among young children.
About 21 percent said schools should open as scheduled April 6, while 6 percent said they "couldn't decide."
Among respondents, 75 percent of teachers from Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province, and 71 percent from Daegu, North Gyeongsang Province, the epicenter of the virus outbreak here, called for the date to be pushed back again.
Nearly 60 percent of those who want to delay the school opening said schools should kick off the spring semester through online classes first, while 18 percent said online and offline semesters should be operated at the same time.
With continuing concerns over possible mass infections in classrooms, the MOE has been considering opening online classes so that students can take classes on computers at home rather than go to school.
As to rescheduling the College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT), 87 percent said it should be postponed in accordance with the delay of the academic calendar, while 13 percent said it should not be delayed.
The education ministry plans to announce next week whether schools can open April 6.
"If the closure is extended, then classes may be held remotely," said Lee Sang-soo, a senior official at the MOE, during an online briefing Friday.
The education ministry said it has been collecting feedback from parents on the opening, while the interior ministry was in talks with local communities.
The education authorities' decision has come as the number of COVID-19 infections among young children has steadily increased over the last five days since March 23. According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), 604 adolescents and children under the age of 18 had contracted COVID-19 as of March 27, up from 563, March 23.