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Over 70% of Parents of Grade 1 Students Don't Support In-Person Classes

In-person learning for Saigon's Grade 1 students is set to resume on December 13 for two weeks as a trial program, but more than 70% of parents don't want their children to return to the classroom.

Last week the HCMC People's Committee announced plans for school re-openings for students in the first, ninth and twelfth grade. Four COVID-19 alert levels are being applied to each school in the city, which determines how they can operate.

Those in Level 1 can operate at full capacity in the morning; Level 2 can offer in-person morning classes at 50% capacity; Level 3 schools will only operate morning classes three days a week at half-capacity; and those designated as Level 4 will continue to provide lessons entirely online. All other primary school grades will continue with virtual learning. 

Parents do not seem eager about the plan, however: 85,400 out of 121,700 parents of Grade 1 kids from Saigon public and private schools responded to a poll that they do not agree with the return to in-person classes. Many are concerned because first-grade students, unlike those in secondary school, have not yet received vaccinations, and they would like to observe how the re-openings work for older students first.

An increasing number of children are being hospitalized with COVID-19, and while doctors say that only children with underlying health problems such as obesity and asthma are at risk of serious symptoms, parents are concerned that infected children will spread the virus to vulnerable family members. 

A similar two-week pilot program was announced for Grade 12 and 9 students across the city to return to school on December 13, and five-year-olds on December 20. Classes will be limited to 35 students, while classroom re-arrangements will be required to maximize social distancing, and school days will be restricted to four lessons in the mornings and online learning in the afternoons.

Increased sanitation, ventilation testing and contact-tracing efforts will accompany the re-openings. Authorities note that schools will have a degree of autonomy to determine what schedules, procedures and requirements are appropriate based on local COVID-19 situations. Several schools in Can Gio District are allowed to open all grades on December 13 due to the district's low infection risks.

On December 27, a conference will be held to review the pilot program and discuss plans to resume classes for all grades beginning January 3. 

Educators have expressed concerns that online learning has resulted in a widening knowledge gap amongst students. Differences in network connectivity, technology access, home environments and personalities mean that not all students have had equal learning experiences while in-school classes have been suspended.

Update: As of this morning, December 8, the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Education and Training has excluded Grade 1 from the two-week pilot and will only move forward with older students.

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