URUMQI -- Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region reopened all primary and high schools on Monday, the first provincial-level region in the country to do so amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The reopening came after the region had reported no new cases of coronavirus infection for 34 days as of Sunday and downgraded its emergency response to the lowest level.
On Monday, over 4 million students went to classrooms in 5,004 primary, high and vocational schools across the region in an orderly manner, as authorities implemented anti-virus measures to ensure safety of the students.
A week ago, school reopened for graduating students in junior and senior high schools in Xinjiang.
A WELCOME MOVE
Many students have longed for the resumption of offline classes after weeks of attending virtual classes on online platforms.
"Being back at school has eased my anxiety and lifted my motivation for study," said Ylibinur Nabi, a senior high school student at Lop County, south Xinjiang's Hotan Prefecture. She will sit gaokao, the annual college entrance exam, later this year.
It's also the expectation of many parents, whose returning to work was dragged partly due to the postponement of school reopening.
"Many of my friends are happy to see their kids resume classes. We can be more devoted to work thanks to the move," said Wang Lingfeng, one of the parents taking children to school on Monday morning.
China has urged local governments to speed up the establishment of an economic and social order compatible with epidemic prevention and control and underscored efforts to restore people's normal work and life in full in low-risk provinces.
Since the start of the outbreak, Xinjiang's regional government responded swiftly with a string of stringent emergency management steps and leveraged local communities' grassroots service network to prevent and contain the epidemic.
Despite the epidemic's waning across the region, health risks management is still high on schools' agenda. No "one-size-fits-all" management is required, and flexible measures are encouraged based on each school's specific conditions as long as the contagion risks can be minimized.
It's required that the first class for these students' renewed school life should be mainly about tips on epidemic prevention, healthy lifestyles, as well as easing stress and anxiety.
Classes and activities with contagion risks are suspended or adjusted. At the Urumqi No.1 Senior High School, outdoor activities like long-distance ball-passing and aerobics have replaced traditional activities that require gathering and close contact.
On Sunday, Shiyan Primary School in Urumqi rehearsed the reopening, covering from the students' entering the campus to taking classes. "We must avoid any loophole in the school's management," said Long Li, the school's deputy principal.
Most schools in Xinjiang have split previous classes into smaller ones. Temperatures are taken at the campus entrance and three times a day. All the classrooms, canteens, dormitories and public facilities are disinfected regularly, while closed-off campus management has been adopted to reduce imported infection risks. Students are encouraged to attend and leave school on staggered schedules.
Free masks are provided, and some schools offer students set meals or arrange staggered dining hours at canteens. In some boarding schools, the number of students in one dormitory room is cut to reduce risks.
Emergency plans are made beforehand, while quarantine rooms are prepared in case any student reports fever or other symptoms.
Targeted teaching plans are also developed. Survey tests are made to take the pulse of students' knowledge level, and specific lessons are offered to beef up weak areas. Hotlines are set up to gather advice from parents, students and teachers.
After taking offline classes for one week, Lu Zijun, a graduating student in Urumqi No.1 Senior High School, said he feels safe, and nearly everything about his studies has returned to normal.
"It's just a little stuffy wearing a mask all day," he said. "I hope soon we can have classes without them."
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