Hanoi makes last minute change to high school reopening plan

By Thanh Hang, Vo Hai   December 5, 2021 | 02:50 am PT
Only twelfth graders will return to school Monday, the rest of the students in the capital city, apart from ninth graders in suburban areas, will continue with online lessons.

Hanoi’s education department on Sunday decided to change the previously announced school reopening plan as many Covid-19 community transmissions have been detected in the last few days, making it risky for students.

From Monday, only twelfth graders will return to school, with 50 percent having in-person classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and the rest having them on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. High schools, vocational and continuing education facilities in low or medium coronavirus risk areas, are allowed to reopen.

Grade nine students in 18 suburban districts will continue to have in-person lessons, and students in all other grades will keep having online classes. Preschool children will also stay at home.

Many high schools in the capital city had already postponed their reopening amid the pandemic’s resurgence.

Under the previous decision by the Hanoi People's Committee, high schools were to reopen for on-site classes from Dec. 6, except for those located in Pho Hue, Kham Thien, and Trung Phung wards.

But, with the city recording hundreds of new infections every day in recent days, many schools decided to postpone their reopening.

A staff member cleans a chalkboard at Phan Dinh Phung High School, preparing for the return of 2,000 students, Dec. 3, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

A staff member cleans a chalkboard at Hanoi's Phan Dinh Phung High School, preparing for the return of 2,000 students, Dec. 3, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

On the evening of Dec. 4, the Marie Curie School issued an urgent notice, saying high school students will have online lessons until further notice.

The decision was made after a school-wide parents’ survey, which found 82 percent of respondents at the school’s My Dinh campus and 74 percent at the Van Phu campus did not want their children to go to school at this time. Many wanted their children to receive the second dose of the vaccine as soon as possible to feel more secure when they return to school.

Similarly, the Foreign Language Specialized School has also allowed students to continue learning online from Dec. 6 - 19, even though the school has met prescribed safety criteria to reopen onsite classes.

As planned now, students will receive the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine on Dec. 14-15. The school wants its students to return only after completing two doses of the vaccine. The school expects to have in-person classes from Dec. 20 to help students review and take the final exams of the first semester.

Van Thuy Duong, vice principal of the Luong The Vinh secondary and high schools, said that on Dec. 4, the school sent a petition to the Hanoi People's Committee and the Department of Education and Training asking for permission to delay its reopening. It will send letters to the management agencies on Dec. 6.

Now that students have become used to online learning and exams, delaying in-person lessons for a few days would not affect the quality of learning, the school has argued.

On Dec. 21, students of the school will receive the second Covid vaccine dose. Therefore, the school wants to maintain online lessons until the end of December. This decision is supported by a large number of parents, the school said.

The Nguyen Sieu High School also sent a letter to the students' parents on Dec. 4, expressing sympathy with the desire of many families wanting their children to be back in school soon. However, the decision to allow students to return has to be based on the peace of mind of many families and the safety of the students themselves, it said.

The school assessed that online teaching and learning are being done well at this point, and the preparation for online final tests has also been completed. Therefore, the school wants parents to encourage their children to complete the tests online, the letter said.

Confused parents

Many parents are also very confused about school reopening in Hanoi.

Lan Anh of Long Bien District, who has two sons in grades 10 and 12, says both have been affected by the pandemic in having to study online for a long time, but was wary about the reopening.

"More than anyone else, I look forward to having my children to return to their school, but the city's decision (to reopen) worries me. Why now?"

The number of Covid cases in Hanoi has risen to hundreds of community transmissions each day. Anh is concerned about the mental health impacts if her children get infected or are in the same class with a Covid patient and have to be quarantined.

"Both of them are preparing for the final exams, the older one has to study for the high school graduation exam. I really don't want to sacrifice the safety and mental health of my children now," she said.

On the other hand, Le Son of Cau Giay District has been keen on children returning to school soon. He said that it was not reasonable to open restaurants and many other services and keep schools closed. The father of an 11th-grader said that with a relatively high rate of vaccine coverage, going to school was not too much of a safety concern.

However, on the evening of Dec. 4, when he read the instructions on handling Covid patients at schools, Son changed his opinion.

Under this protocol, students and teachers in the same class with a Covid patient must be temporarily isolated in classrooms. Others coming into close contact with patients in the school would be separated into an area for isolation.

"Temporary isolation right in the classrooms? What next?

"Isolation under the school's regulations means isolation at home or in a facility?

"These instructions are complicated and lack clarity, making those supporting school reopening, like me, also not wanting children to get in trouble if they go to school," he said.

Hanoi twelfth graders will go to school Monday. Anh has prepared more masks and hand sanitizers for her older son.

"I just hope my son and friends are safe," she said.

According to the previous decision of the municipal People's Committee, high school students in 30 districts will return to school from Dec. 6 after seven months of online learning. High schools located in low and medium risk areas can reopen if they meet Covid prevention criteria.

Since Nov. 23, Hanoi has organized vaccination against Covid for children aged 15-17, mostly high school students. Until now, first dose coverage has crossed 90 percent.

As of Sunday, Hanoi has recorded over 12,600 Covid cases in the ongoing outbreak that started in late April.

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