First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus

Yang Meiping
Another 600,000 youngsters in Shanghai returned to schools on Monday. Among them were the first wave of primary students welcomed back since the start of the pandemic.
Yang Meiping
Shot by Tang Dafei. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Subtitles by Wang Xinzhou and Andy Boreham.
First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus
Dong Jun / SHINE

A father puts a school bag on her daughter's back on Monday morning as she returns to campus after the long break brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 600,000 local students in grades 4-7 and 10 returned to schools on Monday.

For middle and high schools, it is the third batch of students welcomed back since the long closure of campuses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s the first time for local primary schools to reopen.

At Changning Experimental Primary School, 460 fourth- and fifth-graders made the campus vigorous again after being quiet for four months, both for winter vacation and the pandemic closure.

“Good morning, teacher!” Such greetings returned. So did parents’ wordy enjoinings, such as “Listen carefully in class!” and “Drink plenty of water!”

“I’m so excited that I got up at 6am,” said fifth-grader Wang Zixin. “Though I could sleep till 8am when taking classes online at home, it was a little boring and lonely. I have been missing my teachers and classmates.”

Zheng Jiaxinyu, another fifth-grader, said: “We are going to graduate soon, so I’ve been looking forward to coming back and spending more time with my teachers and classmates.”

First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus
Dong Jun / SHINE

A grandfather drops his grandson off at school.

Parents also felt excited, and relieved.

“Having been assisting our children in online studying for more than two months, we’re really glad to send them back to school,” said Zhao Wenjie, a father of a fifth-grader.

“I think home schooling has pushed them to develop self-discipline and improve time management, but learning with teachers and classmates at school is better for not only their studies, but also their physical and psychological health.”

Zhao said the school arranged an online meeting for parents before reopening, informing them about preparations, including a video with teachers playing the role of students to show how campus life would be after students’ return.

“I think the school has made good preparation and the preventive measures are much stricter than at home,” said Zhao. “Under the guidance of the school, we’ve also made our children prepare for the return. They had been worried earlier whether they could be back to the campus when the pandemic was serious and now they might be worried whether it’s safe to return. So we told them not to be worried and just follow teachers’ instructions.”

First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus
Dong Jun / SHINE

To ensure smooth and safe operation, the school talked with the community, police and parents to arrange volunteers to guide traffic at the school gate together with teachers.

“Our teachers used to start work at 8am, but now they start half an hour earlier,” said Pan Zongjuan, principal of the school. “All the teachers have been assigned to posts to ensure students’ health and safety, such as keeping order during breaks and lunchtime, and guiding students to take turns and keep their distance when using toilets.”

Students lined up in two rows after entering the campus, keeping 1 meter from each other, to go through infrared temperature scanners and wash their hands at sanitation facilities.

First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus
Dong Jun / SHINE

A student stops to have her temperature checked by an infrared scanner.

First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus
Dong Jun / SHINE

A student has his hands disinfected.

Each classroom was equipped with a forehead thermometer, alcohol wipes, tissues, hand sanitizer and a package for handling vomit.

“We have rearranged the classrooms,” Pan said. “Each class now has two classrooms for activities during breaks and for having lunch. And if any student vomits or any emergency occurs, the rest can be evacuated to the extra classroom while the original one is being disinfected.”

Eye exercises have been cancelled according to advice from medical experts to prevent infection, but students are advised to look into the distance during class breaks to rest their eyes.

The school also has prepared several disinfection machines to sterilize classrooms, canteens, toilets, corridors and other public areas every day after students leave.

First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus
Dong Jun / SHINE

A student cleans her desk with an alcohol wipe.

First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus
Dong Jun / SHINE

Students read in the morning after returning to school.

First classes

The first class was unusual. All students watched a video of their studies at home over the previous two months and a song sung by all of them to thank the people who made contributions to the fight against the pandemic.

A father, a policeman who works at the front line at the Pudong airport, and a mother, a doctor at the Shanghai People’s No. 6 Hospital who helped treated COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, the former epicenter in China, were also invited to the school to talk about pandemic prevention.

Pan said the first two weeks would focus on helping children transition from online learning back to campus learning.

First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus
Dong Jun / SHINE

Students have class in the morning.

First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus
Dong Jun / SHINE

“We’ve organized several online meetings with parents in the past two months to learn about the performance of students and designed teaching plans accordingly,” she said. “There are 48 students who have decided to continue taking online classes at home and our teachers will also leave time to help them every day.”

Both school administrators and parents found that children put on weight when staying at home.

“I saw the school uniforms became smaller on some students,” said Pan. “They’ve grown bigger and fatter, so teachers have to rearrange their seats in the classrooms.”

First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus
Dong Jun / SHINE

The first PE class aims at regaining of posture and muscle rebuilding.

The PE classes are also specially designed.

“We’ve developed non-contact activities to awaken students’ bodies gradually,” said Pan.

On Monday morning, Shanghai Daily saw two Grade 5 classes standing on the playground, stretching out their arms to pull ropes.

Mi Yao, a coach, said the exercises are to help students rectify their postures and regain muscle power.

“Some students have developed bad postures when studying at home,” he said. “The exercises are not difficult but can help them solve such problems.”

First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus
Dong Jun / SHINE

A student washes his hands during class break.

First batch of primary schoolers returns to campus
Dong Jun / SHINE

Changning Experimental Primary School has prepared protective supplies.

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