Early closure of school due to MERS scare ineffective

Unlike the usual celebration that ends an academic year, SY 2014-2015 dwindled into an anticlimactic fizz when school closed two days earlier than expected. In an effort to prevent the further spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that glanced Korea in the beginning of June, the government urged schools nationwide to consider voluntary closure. Hence, SIS became one of the 3,000 schools to voluntarily shut down operations in the last moments of the school year. Although compliance to such government recommendations is certainly understandable, the school’s abrupt closure was counterproductive and brought logistical difficulties in scheduling for the 2015-2016 school year.

A common misconception regarding the closure is that shutting down the school was an effective method of quarantine. However, according to the World Health Organization, MERS usually spreads only in medical facilities, not in general public places. Even prior to the South Korean breakout, it was common medical knowledge that the majority of transmissions occur as a result of intimate human-to-human contact. To this day, no case of community transmission of MERS has been documented, making the school closure an ineffective means of achieving the purpose it claimed.

Even though the decision to close school can be commended as a preventative measure in the slim chance that the MERS virus would spread within the school, the subsequent actions of the administration rendered the decision inefficient. In the same email written to notify students of the closure, the administration noted that if students had not yet returned their textbooks, they should return to school to do so. According to Sky Park (10), the office was hectic and crowded, an environment even more susceptible to the risk the school had sought to avoid in the first place. An alternative to this notice could have been to notify returning students to turn in their textbooks the following school year, and to only notify leaving students to check in with the office.

Furthermore, students were denied a celebratory ending to the school year with scheduled events, such as the middle school carnival, HSSC elections, high school awards ceremony, and Yearbook signing. Their abrupt cancellation also led to logistical difficulties; for example, the delay in class elections pushed back planning for various school events such as Family Fun Day, as class officers were not yet determined when the new school year started.

While it is the role of the administration to look out for the safety of the school community, the actions that followed the early closure were contradictory to this purpose, rather backfiring in the logistics of other aspects of school life. In the case of another outbreak of disease, a thorough analysis of other options, such as informing students with identified symptoms to stay at home, should be enacted, rather than an ineffectual decision that may add to the unnecessary confusion.