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Japan gov't to dispatch 3,100 extra teachers for smaller classes amid virus concerns

From left, signs for the Japan Sports Agency, the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology are seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- In response to prolonged school closures due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Japanese government is set to dispatch an additional 3,100 teachers to elementary and junior high schools in areas with high risks of infection.

Priority for coming to actual classes will be given to sixth graders and third-year junior high school students as they are set to graduate next spring. Additional teachers will be dispatched to conduct classes with a smaller number of students so that children can avoid the risk of infection.

The government plans to dispatch personnel including retired teachers. It will appropriate related costs to the second supplementary budget draft for fiscal 2020, which is expected to receive Cabinet approval on May 27.

In its manual presented to education boards nationwide on May 22, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology asked that children preferably stay 2 meters apart from each other at school in areas with high risks of infection. The manual also allowed schools, as an exceptional measure, to carry over learning content for the 2020 school year to the next academic year in cases where it is difficult to finish classes -- but this is hard for graduating sixth graders and third-year junior high school students.

To enable students in their senior year to continue learning at schools in areas where the risk of infection has increased once again, it is necessary to divide classes up in half and take other preventative measures, which cannot be done without additional teachers.

Furthermore, the government will dispatch an extra 61,200 instructors for children facing problems learning class content due to school closures nationwide. It will also increase the number of school support staff -- who help out with work including printing teaching materials and offering information to parents and guardians -- by 20,600.

The government plans to hire retired teachers, instructors at cram schools, university students and others for these initiatives. It expects to allocate a total of 31 billion yen for costs necessary in relation to these measures.

Moreover, the government will provide a maximum of around 1 million to 3 million yen each to all institutions -- including elementary, junior high and senior high schools, as well as special needs schools -- as expenses to implement preventative measures and advance efforts on educational rights.

It is expected that schools spend the money to purchase health supplies including disinfectant and non-contact thermometers, thermography equipment for temperature testing of students, teaching material to be used at home, equipment necessary to conduct classes in classrooms currently not in use and other equipment. The government says it will create a system in which principals can decide how to use the money flexibly.

(Japanese original by Akira Okubo, City News Department)

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