Plastic partitions, temperature checks, and socially distanced classrooms: How countries are reopening schools following coronavirus closures

Gorm Kallestad/NTB Scanpix/Getty ImagesYoung pupils gather at the courtyard of their Vikåsen school in Trondheim, Norway, after the school reopened on April 27, 2020.
  • Coronavirus lockdown measures have partially or fully closed schools for over 60% of the world’s student population across 186 countries and territories, according to UNESCO.
  • After closing schools to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, a handful of countries like Denmark and Japan have started reopening them.
  • Reopening strategies range from keeping windows open for ventilation to spacing desks six feet apart and resuming classes for students of a certain age.
  • Here’s a look at the countries and provinces that have reopened schools so far.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As a new academic year begins, schools in parts of the US are reopening, with some leading to new coronavirus outbreaks,Business Insider’s Susie Neilson previously reported. Neilson wrote that as of August 6, the US was seeing a weekly average of more than 50,000 cases per day.

Across the globe, countries have reopened schools with coronavirus-era safety measures in place, like wearing masks and social distancing.

Schools are reopening in parts of Europe and Asia, with some dropping social distancing measures that limit full-time schooling like scattered attendance, The Washington Post reported.

Stephane Mahe/ReutersA teacher wearing a face mask teaches in a classroom at a private school in France on May 12, 2020.

While reopened schools have been mostly successful in avoiding any further coronavirus outbreaks among younger students so far, as The Washington Post story stated, doctors and public health officials warn that there is still a lot we don’t know about how the virus spreads in schools, and asymptotic children aren’t likely to be tested.

While some schools in China began reopening in March, some closed again in June and July amid new outbreaks.

Costfoto/Barcroft Media/Getty ImagesHigh school seniors wash their hands with hand sanitizer before returning to school in Beijing, China, on April 27, 2020.

In late January, China instituted a lockdown for the 11 million residents of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus outbreak originated. Fifteen other cities soon followed, and at its peak, China’s quarantine extended to 20 provinces and regions, according to the Wall Street Journal. Due to lockdown measures, some 200 million students transitioned to online learning in February, the Washington Post reported. On March 18, China reported no new local coronavirus cases for the first time since the outbreak and has gradually lifted restrictions in the weeks since.

While schools in nine mainland provinces reopened for graduating students in early April, according to the South China Morning Post, UNESCO’s data shows that most schools remained closed in larger regions. High school seniors in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou returned to school on April 27 to prepare for their college entrance exams.

BBC reported that China’s Ministry of Education is requiring that students have their temperatures checked at school entrances and that they display a “green” code of health via China’s smartphone health code program.

Schools in Beijing closed again in response to another outbreak,The New York Times reported on June 16, after almost two months without any new cases, per U.S. News. Less than a month later, Beijing Municipal Health Commission reported only one new case. The June outbreak consisted of more than 328 new cases and no deaths, TIME reported.

A month later, Beijing announced when students will return to school, per Xinhua News Agency. High school seniors will begin on August 29, while elementary and middle school students will return on three different dates – August 29, September 1, and September 7. Kindergarteners will go back to school on September 8 and September 11.

Taiwan reopened schools on February 25 after extending winter break by ten days.

Sam Yeh/Getty ImagesStudents eat their lunch on desks with plastic partitions at Dajia Elementary School in Taipei, Taiwan, on April 29, 2020.

After learning of the coronavirus outbreak, Taiwan took swift action to contain its spread.

Taiwan never officially closed schools but did extend winter break by 10 days in February in order to disinfect education facilities, distribute medical supplies, and implement new procedures for schools with confirmed coronavirus cases.

Schools now conduct temperature checks, and some have employed plastic tabletop desk partitions as an added security measure.

Schools in Japan reopened in early April for the new school year.

The Asahi Shimbun/Getty ImagesNew pupils wearing face masks attend a welcome ceremony while maintaining social distance in Yokohama, Japan, on April 6, 2020.

On February 27, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged elementary, middle, and high schools across Japan to close beginning March 2 until the start of the new school year in early April to prevent the spread of the virus.

Abe did not issue specific guidance for universities, most of which were on spring break as they follow a separate semester system.

On March 24, Japan announced that it would not extend its school closure recommendation, leaving the decision of when and whether or not to reopen to local municipalities based on the number of coronavirus cases in the area. The Ministry of Health also released guidelines for school reopening which include opening windows to ventilate classrooms, maintaining physical distance, checking temperatures daily, and wearing face masks.

“The circumstances of each area is different, and it will be much more effective to judge based on the actual ground situation rather than dictating a policy measure nationwide,” Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda told the Straits Times.

This could be due in part to the national state of emergency that Abe announced on April 16 following a rise in new infections. The state of emergency gives leaders of Japan’s 47 prefectures, or administrative regions, the authority to request school closures and ask residents to stay home.

Many schools in Japan reopened on May 18 after Abe lifted the state of emergency in 39 prefectures, per Japan Times. New coronavirus-era safety measures included things like staggering attendance and shortening the school day.

On the same day, The Washington Post reported that schools also implemented measures like spreading out desks, checking temperatures, and disinfecting students’ hands.

Abe lifted the state of emergency in the last areas that it was still implemented, including Tokyo, on May 25, per NPR. A couple of weeks later, The Post reported that more schools in Japan had reopened with measures like having parents record their kids’ temperatures for a health report before class.

On July 11, The Post reported that many schools that reopened in May were no longer implementing staggered attendance.

Across the country, schools are shortening summer break to make up for lost learning time, The Japan Times reported on August 7.

On April 15, Denmark became the first European country on lockdown to reopen its schools, beginning with children in daycare and grades 1 through 5.

Ritzau Scanpix/Bo Amstrup/ReutersParents with their children stand six feet apart while waiting to enter Stengaard School north of Copenhagen, Denmark, on April 15, 2020.

Denmark’s youngest students returned to school in April as part of Denmark’s plan to gradually reopen the country following a decline in the rate of new infections.

While classes have resumed, schools have placed desks six feet apart and staggered student arrivals, among other measures, in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines still in place.

Denmark announced its first lockdown measures on March 11 before the country reported any coronavirus deaths and closed schools on March 16.

Five weeks after students returned to school, Peter Andersen, an infectious disease epidemiology and prevention doctor, told Reuters that reopening didn’t exacerbate the virus.

Some students between 12 and 16 years of age returned to school on May 18 with guidelines like washing hands every two hours and surfaces twice a day, per The Local.

Norway began reopening its kindergartens on April 20, followed by primary schools for children in grades 1 through 4 on April 27.

Gorm Kallestad/NTB Scanpix/Getty ImagesYoung pupils gather at the courtyard of their Vikåsen school in Trondheim, Norway, after the school reopened on April 27, 2020.

Norway closed schools on March 12 and, like Denmark, has sent its youngest students back to class ahead of older pupils due to a decline in the rate of coronavirus transmission.

“Together we have taken control of the virus, therefore we can open up society little by little,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said during a news conference in early April.

To encourage social distancing, the government has urged schools to divide classes into groups of no more than 15 and have children wash their desks daily, among other precautions.

Middle and high schools reopened on May 11, per Reuters.

Germany reopened high schools on April 20 to high school seniors. In August, much of Berlin went back to class with fack masks.

Bodo Schackow/Picture Alliance/Getty ImagesPupils wearing face masks sit in a gymnasium converted into a classroom at the JenaPlan School on April 27, 2020.

Select high schools across Germany reopened in April so that seniors could take their final exams.

Most schools and daycares across Germany’s 16 states have been closed since mid-March during which time the country has achieved “fragile intermediate success” in reducing the spread of the virus, Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier this month.

As part of Germany’s plan to gradually lift its lockdown following, Merkel recommended that schools begin the process of reopening on May 4, giving priority to graduating students.

Following a spike in coronavirus cases, some schools and daycares in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia were ordered to close on June 17, per The New York Times.

Nearly 500,000 students in Berlin and millions more across the country returned to school less than two months later, the AP reported on August 9. In Berlin, students are masking up in the halls, but not during class or recess.

North Rhine-Westphalia schools will reopen for middle and high school students on August 12, per The Local Germany. Students are required to wear face masks in class until the end of August.

At the same time, two schools in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania closed the week of its reopening because of a spike in new coronavirus cases in the region, Daily Mail reported on August 8.

New Zealand schools partially reopened on April 28, and all students were allowed to return to school on May 14.

Fiona Goodall/Getty ImagesLaingholm Primary School students listen to their teacher Niki Bowater on May 18, 2020, in Auckland, New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime minister Jacinda Ardern eased coronavirus restrictions allowing students to return to school on May 11, per The Guardian.

The country was on coronavirus lockdown from March 25 to April 28, meaning people were ordered to stay at home aside from essential work, grocery shopping, and outdoor exercise, Business Insider previously reported. On April 28, schools partially reopened to children of essential workers, per The Washington Post.

Schools reopened to all students on May 14, per Vox. Schools offered to make accommodations for parents who were concerned with bringing students back at that time.

“We can help you work through a transition arrangement,” New Zealand’s Ministry of Education stated on May 11.

Three months later, the nation’s Ministry of Health reported that New Zealand hasn’t seen a new local case of coronavirus in 100 days.

After two months of closure, schools in Singapore reopened on June 2.

REUTERS/Edgar SuChildren wearing protective face masks and shields attend preschool classes at St James’ Church Kindergarten on June 2, 2020.

Singapore closed schools along with most workplaces to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Reuters reported on April 3.

Students in Singapore went back to school on June 2 with new measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, like wearing face masks and having their temperatures checked, per Reuters. At one school Reuters went to, students had staggered recesses and sat far apart in the school cafeteria.

About six weeks later, Bloomberg reported that the schools will quarantine students and teachers if cases arise rather than closing schools entirely. Staggering student’s recess and lunchtimes have made this possible.

“If one student is found to have the virus, their peers will be moved to home-based learning while the rest of the school can continue,” Bloomberg’s Philip Heijmans wrote.

Preschools, elementary, and middle schools in France partially reopened in May followed by a wider reopening in June.

THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty ImagesMiddle school pupils attend a lesson in their classroom in France on June 22, 2020.

France began to reopen preschools and elementary and middle schools in May, per France24.

The schools opened with social distancing measures in place, like assigning only 10 students per preschool class and up to 15 students in all other classes. Attendance was voluntary, according to The Washington Post.

France closed schools on March 17 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Business Insider’s Rosie Perper previously reported.

About a week after 1.4 million students went back to class in May, the country confirmed 70 new cases of coronavirus in schools.

Two weeks into June, France’s primary and middle voluntary school attendance policy became mandatory, The Guardian reported, but upper highschools remain closed.

The country hopes to reopen all schools for the upcoming semester around the beginning of September, the AP reported on July 14.

Belgium began partially reopening schools for younger students in May. Elementary schools were fully reopened in June, but in September, schools may be back to a partial reopening.

Vincent Kalut / Photonews via Getty ImagesElementary children are allowed to return to classes all day long without any restrictions.

Primary and secondary schools opened in May to final-year students with social distancing measures in place, Reuters reported on May 13. Everyone over 12 years old was required to wear a face mask, and only 10 students could be in each classroom, per Politico.

Belgium closed schools to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,Reuters reported on March 12.

In June, nursery schools were reopened and all elementary school children returned to school without social distancing measures,Politico’s Barbara Moens reported.

Since the start of August, the country has seen between 300 and 900 new cases each day. Niel Hens, a biostatistician from Belgium’s Group of Experts for the Exit Strategy, recently told Radio 1 that schools may go back to a partial reopening in September based on the country’s current coronavirus cases. Middle and high school students would have staggered attendance while elementary students would all return to school but be limited to lunch and socialisation inside their classroom bubble.

Greece reopened schools for older students in May and younger students in June.

LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images)A teacher talks to final year students in a classroom of a high school in Athens on May 11, 2020.

Greece reopened highschools for graduating students in May The National Herald reported. A week later, other highschool and middle school students could return with only 15 students in each class to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Greece reopened elementary schools and kindergartens the following month, per Global Times.

Schools closed in March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, per Reuters. The closure was initially supposed to last two weeks, but it was extended multiple times, per Greek Reporter and Reuters.

On August 9, Greece reported more than 200 cases in one day, per U.S. News. That’s the highest number of new cases the country has reported in a day since the pandemic began. Vassilis Kikilias, the country’s Minister of Health, said there will be new measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus soon.

Albania reopened schools for high school graduates on May 18, and cases are up since schools were set to reopen in September back in June.

Arben Celi/Xinhua via Getty ImagesGraduating senior high students wait to enter their classrooms while observing social distancing in Tirana, Albania, on May 18, 2020.

Albania reopened its high schools for graduating students in May, per Xinhua News Agency. Students returned to in-person coursework on May 18 until June 5 to prepare for exams. Social distancing measures included having up to 15 students in each class.

Schools have been closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus since March 9, according to the same source.

While it was initially decided in June that schools would reopen in September, coronavirus cases have spiked since then, Balkan Insight reported on August 7. Five days earlier, the same publication reported that Albania had an average of 100 new cases a day over the last three weeks.

In Belarus, schools reopened on April 20, but students weren’t required to attend.

SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty ImagesBelarus’ servicemen wearing protective gear disinfect a school in the village of Mikhanavichy outside Minsk on May 3, 2020.

Schools in Belarus only closed for three weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reported on April 20. The students’ scheduled break was extended by two additional weeks. Students weren’t required to return to school, Education Minister Igor Karpenko told the AP.

Israel began reopening schools in May. An order enacted in June requires schools to close if they report coronavirus cases. Schools will reopen in September with coronavirus restrictions.

Gil Cohen Magen/Xinhua via Getty ImagesStudents wearing masks are seen in a classroom in Modii, Israel on May 17, 2020.

Schools in Israel began to reopen in early May, NPR reported on June 3. Schools initially opened with smaller class sizes, but by May 17, these measures were dropped. Just two weeks later, Israel saw a spike in cases in schools and ordered all schools with cases to close.

Schools closed on March 13 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, per The Times of Israel.

Schools will reopen in September for the fall semester, The Jerusalem Post reported on August 10. Older students have to wear masks, but younger ones don’t. Some students will attend school full-time and others will attend remote classes, depending on their ages.

Thailand reopened schools in July, and they’re reopening without restrictions next week.

Photo by Rachen Sageamsak/Xinhua via Getty ImagesStudents wearing face masks take a break at a school in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 1, 2020.

Thailand reopened schools on July 1, per Reuters, with safety measures like temperature checks and makeshift partitions between desks.

Thai schools closed over coronavirus concerns on March 18.

Next week, schools will reopen without social distancing requirements after the nation went two months without a single local transmission of the coronavirus, Bloomberg reported on August 7.

Austria reopened schools in phases in May.

REUTERS/Leonhard FoegerChildren sit in a classroom at a primary school as schools reopen in Brunn am Gebirge, Austria, on May 18, 2020.

Austria opened schools to graduating students on May 4 with social distancing measures, per Reuters. Some schools held classes in a gymnasium to allow for social distancing.

Other students between 6 and 14 years old returned to school on May 18. Classes were split in half with scattered attendance to allow for social distancing.

Austrian schools closed in March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Reuters reported on March 11.

Croatia reopened schools in May, but most coursework remains online.

DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty ImagesSabina Kovacic helps her son Noa to follow classes on a tablet on March 19, 2020.

Schools in Croatia reopened on May 11, but the majority of coursework remains online, per Croatia Week. Younger students have both in-person and online coursework, and older students have online coursework aside from art, lab, and clinical classes.

Croatian schools closed for two weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Reuters reported in March. The following month, Lockdown was extended until May, Reuters reported in April.

Vietnam reopened schools in May for younger students.

MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty ImagesStudents wearing face masks stand in a queue to get their temperatures checked at the Marie Curie School in Hanoi on May 4, 2020.

Kindergarten and elementary schools in Vietnam reopened on May 11, per Reuters, with coronavirus safety measures like temperature checks and shorter school days.

Vietnamese schools remain closed after a holiday break in late January because of the coronavirus pandemic, BBC reported.

The nation recently reported a surge in coronavirus cases after about 100 days of no confirmed cases of local transmission,The New York Times reported on July 29.

Students in Turkmenistan returned to school on April 6.

REUTERS/Vyacheslav SarkisyanPeople wearing protective face masks are seen inside a bus in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, on July 15, 2020.

Turkmenistan didn’t close schools entirely amid the pandemic.According to the Washington Post, the country extended its break. Students went back to school on April 6 after an additional week of break, per Chronicles of Turkmenistan.

The country has not reported any coronavirus cases and banned the use of the word “coronavirus,” NPR reported on March 31.

In Finland, schools reopened in May.

ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO/AFP via Getty ImagesEestinkallio primary school students social distance as it re-opens after the lockdown due to the new coronavirus pandemic on May 14, 2020, in Espoo, Finland.

Schools in Finland began to reopen in mid-May with social distancing measures like staggered recess, per France24. Schools closed for children over 10 in March over coronavirus concerns, and students under 10 were advised to stay home too.

Lithuania reopened kindergartens in May. Schools will reopen for the new academic year in September.

PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP via Getty Images)Medical workers take samples from car passengers at a drive-through coronavirus testing point in Vilnius, Lithuania on March 19, 2020.

Kindergartens in Lithuania began to reopen on May 18, Lithuanian Radio and Television reported. The country closed schools to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on March 12, per Reuters.

The new school year will begin in classrooms on September 1, according to Baltic News Network. In areas where there are at least 16 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, face masks will be mandatory. In areas where there are at least 25 cases per 100,000 people, schools may shift to remote coursework.

Some younger students returned to school in Poland at the end of May.

REUTERS/Kacper PempelChildren take part in a lesson after schools reopened in Warsaw, Poland, on May 25, 2020.

Schools in Poland began to reopen for 7 to 10 year-olds at the end of May with social distancing measures like having only 12 students per class and about five feet between desks, Notes from Poland reported on May 25.

Poland closed schools in March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Reuters reported on March 11.

In early August, the country saw record-high numbers for new coronavirus cases, according to Reuters.

The Netherlands began reopening elementary schools in May and high schools in June.

Douwe Bijlsma/BSR Agency/Getty ImagesChildren entering their classroom through a gangway at an elementary school on June 4, 2020, in Sint Nicolaasga, Netherlands.

Elementary schools in the Netherlands began to reopen on May 11, per Reuters. Schools opened with coronavirus safety measures like staggered attendance and teachers wearing face masks. Schools closed for most in mid-March because of the coronavirus, but some students of essential workers were able to attend.

The following month, highschools began to reopen and elementary schools fully opened, Reuters reported.

While many middle and high school students are expected to return to school in mid-August, 25% of Dutch schools don’t have adequate ventilation, NL Times recently reported, making some, like Daniel Bonn, a professor of physics at the University of Amsterdam, concerned about the possibility of the poor ventilation leading to further spread of the coronavirus. Research from the Eindhoven University of Technology backs this. While schools could easily open classroom windows in the summer, the concern is that in the winter, having open windows is not feasible.

Hungary began to reopen schools in early June.

KAROLY ARVAI/AFP via Getty ImagesA local teacher hands out the items of the writing exam in Szerb Antal Grammar Schools in Budapest, Hungary, on May 4, 2020.

Schools in Hungary began to reopen on June 2, Xinhua News Agency reported. Schools closed in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Schools were reopened for small groups, and students weren’t required to attend.

About a month earlier, graduating students took exams in-person with social distancing measures like having only 10 students in each room, per Reuters.

Schools are set to reopen on September 1 for the new school year, according to a July Reuters report.

In the Czech Republic, schools began to reopen in May.

Gabriel Kuchta/Getty ImagesPupils attend classes as the elementary schools started teaching to prepare children for exams for high school on May 11, 2020, in Prague, Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic allowed graduating students to return to school to prepare for exams on May 11, per Brno Daily. The country reopened elementary schools for children in small groups on May 25, but attendance was not mandatory.

Schools will not fully reopen until September, Reuters reported in April. They will have sanitation regulations in place, per

Schools were ordered to close indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, per a Reuters report from March 10.

In Portugal, older students returned to high schools in May.

Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesA teacher wearing face masks gives a class on the first day of school at Santa Maria high school in Sintra, Portugal, on May 18, 2020.

Daycares and high schools reopened in Portugal on May 18. High schools reopened for students in their last two years of coursework. Elementary and middle school students remained remote for the rest of the school year, per France24.

Portugal closed schools in March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, per Reuters.

South Korea began a phased reopening of schools in May, but many schools were ordered to close again.

Kyodo News via Getty ImagesAn elementary school student has her temperature checked in Seoul on May 27, 2020.

In South Korea, the school year begins in March, per Bloomberg. Students didn’t return to school because of the pandemic until mid-May. Schools began to open in phases with coronavirus safety measures like temperature checks and staggered attendance, and they were ordered to close again if any students caught the virus.

By the end of May, South Korea put reopening schools on hold because of a spike in coronavirus cases, and hundreds of schools that had already reopened closed again, Business Insider previously reported.

A week later, the country completed its phased reopening of schools, The Tribune reported.

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