Beijing school related to COVID-19 death reopens as millions of students resume classes nationwide

By Zhang Hui in Beijing and Chen Shasha in Shanghai Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/27 19:53:40

Parents, students impressed by prevention measures

Senior year students at the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China in Beijing walk out of the school on Monday, their first day back in school after stay-at-home learning for two months due to coronavirus. Photo: GT/ Yang Ruoyu

The majority of some 10 million graduating senior high school students in China returned to school on Monday after two months of stay-at-home learning amid the coronavirus epidemic, and police departments, public transportation sector and community hospitals all buckled down to ensure a smooth transition. 

Schools rolled out stringent precautions, including the use of facial recognition, multiple temperature checks, temporary quarantine areas, automatic hand sanitizer dispensers, footprint signs to mark queueing distances and distributing protective gear to students and faculty members. 

Many parents and students were impressed by the detailed and thoughtful measures, saying schools are taking better care of students than their parents.

What filled their minds was not worry about school infection risks, but the desire to achieve a good result on the all-important college entrance examination, gaokao, which was postponed this year from June to July due to the coronavirus.  

Photo: Yang Ruoyu/GT

In Beijing, some 50,000 senior high school students went back to  school on Monday morning. Beijing requires teachers to wear masks in the classrooms, and students to wear masks all the time at school. 

Outside the gate of the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China, about 10 security guards and police officers diverted traffic and managed car parking shortly before school ended at 3:30 pm. A guard sprayed disinfectant at the exit and entrance of the school. Signs in Chinese and English reminded students and faculty members to wear masks and keep at least one meter away from each other.

Students and faculty members must report their temperatures three times a day: every morning before going to school, at noon in school and at night. Temperatures will be checked whenever anyone enters the school gate, classroom building, canteen, or the  dormitories, according to the school's WeChat account. 

Anyone entering the school has to show their health code, swipe their ID card or pass through a facial recognition system, and have their temperature checked with an infrared sensor and registered. Anyone with a temperature higher than 37.3 C will be escorted to a temporary checkpoint before being sent to a nearby hospital and reported to the education department. 

A senior year student surnamed Zhao told the Global Times on Monday after school that she was excited to see her classmates and teachers, although they were separated into two classrooms in order to maintain safe distances. 

She said that she understood and fully cooperated with the precautionary measures, including eating at designated spots in the canteen with a partition separating students, and she felt some pity that she could not hug her friends who she had not seen for months. 

"We all believe returning to school could improve our learning efficiency as you can communicate with others," Zhao said. 

This prestigious middle school in the nation's capital came under the spotlight after the father of a senior student at the school died of COVID-19 in late January after attending a parents' meeting, triggering fear of cluster infection in the school. The school later confirmed no other teachers or students were infected.

A father surnamed Cheng who was waiting outside the school to pick up his daughter told the Global Times that he was not worried about infections at all despite the tragedy, as the school prepared much better than he expected. 

"Teachers have been talking to parents about the measures every day since April, asking us to prepare protective gear, such as masks and hand sanitizers for our children, and the school has psychological counselors for students feeling pressured," Cheng said.

The Beijing police mobilized 5,000 frontline officers and 400 patrol vehicles to conduct daily safety patrols and maintain traffic order around middle schools starting from Monday, according to a press release the Beijing Public Security Bureau sent to the Global Times on Monday. 

As the country's COVID-19 outbreak has been basically curbed, students in the last year of middle and high schools in Shanghai and provinces including Guangdong, Shaanxi and Hebei also resumed classes on Monday. 

Students at the Shanghai Shidong Experimental School lined up at the gate on Monday morning to take their body temperatures and wash their hands before they went into their classrooms. 

When they entered the classroom, they were told to sit separately, with a one-meter distance in between. Disposable hand sanitizers and epidemic control tips were placed at almost every corner of the campus to remind students and teachers of the infection risk.

To avoid cross infection, the school canteen was closed. At about 11:30 am, the canteen staff delivered meals to the door of each classroom and students were asked to have their lunch at their desks, while maintaining their distance. 

Wang Yuanyuan, a head teacher of the school, told the Global Times that the school issued epidemic-control guidance to the students and their parents before reopening.

"We did inspections and disinfection of the drinking water, air conditioners and canteen before the reopening," Wang said, adding that the school also held online psychological consultation classes each week before the reopening to provide guidance on psychological issues among students.

South China's Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong Province, launched special bus lines for senior high students to avoid any infection risks associated with taking public transportation. Students could book a ride with an app on their mobile phones. On the first day, doctors on the buses taught students how to properly wear masks and keep social distances, and school volunteers gave flyers and masks to students. 

Chinese medical experts said last week that a strong and solid society-wide epidemic prevention and control mechanism will prevent large-scale outbreaks from happening in schools.

Deng Xiaoci contributed to this story 

Newspaper headline: Millions back to school

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