Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim today announced that schools across Indonesia can reopen and conduct face-to-face learning starting January, provided that they fulfill the requirements and are authorized by their respective regional governments.
"The most important message here is that face-to-face learning is not school returning to normal. This is outside of normal [circumstances] because it will be at half-capacity and without any crowded activity whatsoever," Nadiem said during a virtual press conference held earlier today.
"Monitoring from local agencies, regional governments and task forces will be of the utmost importance to ensure that the protocols are upheld."
The authorization to reopen is extended to schools in all of Indonesia, regardless of the risk of coronavirus infection in their respective regions. Previously, only schools located in green and yellow zones (regions with low to medium coronavirus infection risk) were allowed to reopen with approval of their respective regional governments.
This time, the final decision will still be on the hands of the regional governments, through a decision-making process that should involve not only regional officials, but also parents, Nadiem said.
Furthermore, parents have the right to continue home learning for their children if they're concerned about COVID-19 transmissions at school. "Face-to-face learning is allowed, not required," the minister said.
Stringent health precautions will be implemented, starting with good health for students who decide to go to school, while those with comorbidities are obliged to stay at home. Masks, hand washing and social distancing are mandatory for everyone present in the school area.
To avoid any possibility of crowds, cafeterias will not be allowed to operate, while extracurricular and sport activities are prohibited. Students are only expected to come to school to attend classes and then return home promptly.
"Other than learning, there should be no other activity. For example, parents should not wait for the students in the school, there is no recess outside of classrooms, and parent-teacher meetings are not allowed," Nadiem said.
The government said the decision to allow reopening was taken because online learning was found to be less than optimal in a number of areas, with concerns mounting that this method of learning might have a negative outcome in the long run.