Tomioka town to reopen grade, junior high schools in April next year

The education board of Tomioka town in Fukushima Prefecture will seek to reopen elementary and junior high schools in April 2018 in line with the partial lifting set for April this year of an evacuation order issued after the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The board made the policy known at a meeting of the town assembly’s standing committee on general affairs held on Feb. 22 at the wholly evacuated town’s temporary office in Koriyama city in the prefecture. The move follows a position given earlier by the town's education council, comprising board members and the mayor, that elementary and junior high schools should be resumed in accordance with the return of evacuated residents to their homes expected to begin following the termination of evacuation. But the decision to lift the evacuation order was made only in February, making it too late to assign teachers to schools in time for their reopening this April. As a result, the board decided to resume school education in April next year, a year after the end of evacuation. It plans to contact evacuated residents before summer to confirm the number of returning schoolchildren. Classes of both elementary and junior high schools are to be conducted in the Tomioka Daiichi (first) Junior High School buildings located in the town’s residency-restricted zone, one of two areas in which the evacuation order is to be removed. Tomioka had four schools before the disaster -- two elementary and two junior high schools -- with about 1,400 students attending in total. For the new campus, all students will commute irrespective of school districts. The board intends to close in March 2022 the elementary and junior high schools it opened in Miharu town in September 2011 following the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident. At present, 15 elementary and 18 junior high school students are enrolled at the Miharu schools. For children returning home in fiscal 2017 and hoping to attend schools, the board will provide them with a school bus to and from elementary and junior high schools scheduled to reopen this April in the southern adjacent town of Naraha. (Translated by Kyodo News)