Shinjuku schools introduce staggered start times as coronavirus spreads

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Students listen to their teacher at Totsuka Daiichi Elementary School in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on Monday.

All 39 elementary and junior high schools in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on Monday began staggering times for the start and end of the day amid the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A total of 23 students were infected with the virus during the period following the end of the winter vacation through Friday, forcing three schools in the ward to close classes temporarily. It is the first time the Shinjuku Ward municipality has implemented staggered times since June 2020.

At Totsuka Daiichi Elementary School in the ward, half the children from each class arrived at school on Monday morning. In classrooms, students sit with a single vacant seat on all sides.

“It’s said that children are also likely to be infected with the omicron variant,” a classroom teacher said. “Let’s make sure you wash your hands and wear masks.”

The students went home after sharing lunch in silence with the other half of their class, who came to school shortly before noon. Following lunch, this second set of students was set to attend classes until around 3 p.m. Students at the municipal school will switch start times on a weekly basis.

“Daily class hours are now slightly shorter, so we want to make up for it with homework and other activities,” said school principal Nobuyuki Omotezako, 59.