In an unprecedented move, a number of schools from Beiing’s international school community were closed today. The decision came late yesterday evening in response to a memorandum released by Beijing Municipal Department of Education indicating that schools should not hold classes Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. The memorandum was issued by the education authorities as a reaction to Beijing declaring its first Red Alert, calling for the closures of schools, factories, and odds/evens traffic restrictions. Under new standards set in March of this year, a Red Alert is declared when the air quality is forecast to be over AQI 200 for three days or more. Read on for tomorrow’s closures and re-openings.
Among the closures are some of the most well-known international schools in Beijing including Harrow International School Beijing (Harrow Beijing), Canadian International School of Beijing (CISB), Dulwich College Beijing (DCB), Western Academy of Beijing (WAB), 3e International School, Beijing City International School (BCIS), Beijing International Bilingual Academy (BIBA), International Montessori School of Beijing (MSB), Tsinghua International School (THIS), all five campuses of Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA) as well as both House of Knowledge International School and Kindergarten (HoK) campuses. Reactions from faculty and students range from practicality and concern to, unsurprisingly, joy.
“Everyone is celebrating; my WeChat has been bombed with happy posts and declarations of love for pollution,” says Grade 12 THIS student Rhea Jiang.
Though students may see closures as a reason to celebrate, the memorandum stressed that learning should continue and encouraged educators to hand out homework via social media channels or school websites. “I know my AP English teacher will be giving out assignments,” Rhea says.
On the other hand, faculty from Beijing international schools are a looking at the bigger picture and see the closures as an opportunity for change. “If we carry on as normal, the pollution level will continue to rise. We are looking at it from an international school point of view but this also covers local schools that do not have the luxury of air cleaners, whereas parents may have them at home,” shares Tara Gillan, head of marketing at HoK and a mother of two.
The intention of creating more stringent restrictions and school closures is an attempt to improve the situation for children at schools without sufficient air filtration, and to prevent unnecessary travel.
One parent commenter who has a child that goes to a local Chinese School in the Dongcheng District told our sister publication theBeijinger that in an attempt to improve facilities at his daughter’s school, some parents had banded together to buy air purifiers for the classrooms. Other parents then complained to the Ministry of Education that the purchase of air purifiers meant the school was ‘charging extra fees.’ The school has reacted by banning parents from buying air purifiers for its classrooms.
Schools Remaining Open
Not all schools in Beijing were closed today. For example YCIS Beijing remained open. A statement issued by YCIS Beijing Co-Principal Noel Thomas reads: “Thanks to the school’s extensive and effective air purification system and protected classroom spaces, the administration is confident that YCIS Beijing is able to offer students a safe and healthy learning environment despite a red-level pollution warning from the local government. Some YCIS Beijing parents have chosen to keep their kids home today due to external pollution levels, a decision that the school respects. However, we are regularly monitoring air quality inside classrooms and indoor recreational spaces throughout campus and can confidently report that our air purification systems are doing their job.”
Tomorrow’s Closures and Re-Openings
Chaoyang Education Authority alerted schools that they should remain officially closed and only open to parents who have no other childcare arrangements. On that basis, many international schools will reopen tomorrow, giving working parents the option of whether or not to send their kids to school. As of this post classes at HoK, CISB, DCB, and BCIS will resume tomorrow morning, and both BSB campuses will remain open, while Daystar, WAB, MSB, BIBA, and Ivy school campuses will remain closed.
Stay tuned for updates as they become available.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons