First Week Back: School After “State of Emergency” Lift

(I honestly don’t know how many people would be interested, but I want to document how my school in Japan is handling school after the state of emergency. Please note that this is my PERSONAL experience, and does not mean other schools in Japan have taken this approach as well.)

Even before the state of emergency, my school had already instated a work-from-home (WFH) policy with some caveats. Each grade must still have one homeroom teacher physically at the school to take calls every day from students and parents (how they manage this is up to the grades), but most teachers and staff are encouraged to stay home.

When the state of emergency was in full swing, most teachers were already practicing WFH. The only teachers who were going to school were the principal, vice principal and a teacher from each grade. They were encouraged to not stay for more than half a day, so teachers rotated shifts as necessary.

Two weeks before the state of emergency was lifted on June 1st, my school in Hyogo Prefecture (Japan) had already been drafting plans to start school back up. My school was not closed indefinitely; they were always on their toes and pushing the start date of classes to a predetermined date. This allowed them to prepare to start, but also cancel if things went south.

There were two plans, but this was ultimately the plan we implemented:

  • The first two weeks of school will both be the A schedule (my school has A and B week with different rotation of classes)

  • For the first week, students with odd numbers (student numbers) will come in the morning. Even number students will come in the afternoon.

  • All 6 periods will run as usual, with shorten periods.

  • There will be a later start time.

  • For the second week, even number students come in the morning. Odd numbers come in the afternoon.

This is done to reduce the number of students in the classroom. If a class had more than 20 students at a time, plans were made to place that class in one of our bigger classrooms/multi-purpose rooms.

This meant that students would only attend class for half a day, doing a full week of class in a two-week time frame.

Disinfectant for teachers to clean the desks after each switch-up of students.

Homeroom teachers are asked to disinfect the desks after each switch-up. Gloves and face covers are provided for teachers to take freely. Disinfectant is placed all over the school and students are discouraged to do group work or pair work for the time being (usually at the discretion of the teacher though). Classroom windows and doors are left open during lessons for air flow.

Classes have been interesting. There’s no visible changes other than class size, but it’s more difficult to keep track of which students you will see and where they left off last class. Obviously you also have to try to make sure classes end is around the same spot, so when they all come back together again, they will be on the same page.

Students are also required to submit their temperature and any symptoms they may have that points to COVID19 before classes every day to their homeroom teachers and school nurses.

If students suspect they may have caught something, they are required to stay home. Students with a fever are also not allow to join classes (if they already made it to school, then they will go to the infirmary for parents to pick them up if far or go straight home).

School events like our school cultural festival was cancelled due to COVID19, and there has been no plans to hold any of the performances in private or another time. There were talks of clubs like the drama club and chorus club to record their performances and distributed to parents, but there has been no official word. I believe this would be up to the discretion of the club advisors in the near future.

School years in Japan start in April, with the first semester ending in July. Our school has effectively pushed our schedule forward, which means summer vacation will mostly be slashed other than Obon week holiday. The semester will likely end some time mid-August instead.

That’s about it I can think of.

What is your school doing differently after school shutdowns? Do you feel a change in your environment now?

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