Schools reopen in Okinawa

Schools reopen in Okinawa

Students listen to an explanation of handwashing in their classroom. (May 21, Misato Elementary School, Okinawa City)

May 21, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo

Okinawa – On May 21, elementary and middle schools in Okinawa Prefecture reopened after a continued school closure due to the spread of novel coronavirus. At Misato Elementary School in Okinawa City, energetic children arriving at school in a light rain were warmly welcomed by teachers. Returning students celebrated reunions. New students seemed somewhat nervous.

Satomi Kanzato, homeroom teacher for class 1-2, asks her first graders “Who couldn’t wait to come back to school?” Every hand shoots up accompanied by shouts of “Me!” Ms. Kanzato tells her students, “I want us to take good care of our well-being and do our very best to be upfront with each other.” After first hour ends, Yoshimaru Ogawa, a fifth grader, says, “I finally get to see everyone. I’m glad we can be in class together.”

Principal Kiyomi Ikemiyagi says, “It feels like coming home. I’m proud of everyone for enduring until now.” Explaining how the school will operate going forward, she says, “I want us to make sure that we are careful to wash our hands, gargle, and wear our masks.”

As children arrived at school, teachers could be seen in the entryway, making sure students were wearing their masks. As a way to prevent the spread of infection, every class started first hour with an explanation of hand-washing. Teachers showed students a video on the screen to ensure every child completely understood how to wash their hands.

To help students learn social distancing, footprint stickers were placed at appropriate intervals in the halls. Teachers also explained in class. Spare tissues and hand soap that students brought from home were placed in each classroom.

(English translation by T&CT and Ellen Huntley)

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