• Chunichi Shimbun

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As the number of COVID-19 infections surge, especially in the Tokyo metropolitan area, many junior high schools in Aichi Prefecture have been forced to change their school trip schedules, which are typically held in the spring with third-year students traveling to the Kanto region, or other destinations.

As of March 26, some 40 out of around 110 junior high schools in Nagoya had decided to postpone the trips until autumn. Schools in the city of Hekinan will hold the trips as scheduled in May or June, but will change the destinations to areas other than Kanto.

“With the governor of Tokyo asking residents to avoid nonessential travel and universities such as Waseda postponing the start of classes until May, it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to make judgments (on school trips),” said a principal of a junior high school in Nagoya.

The school is planning a three-day field trip to Tokyo in June, including visits to the Diet and Tokyo Disneyland.

It is not clear when the spread of infections can be contained and nobody knows whether Tokyo Disneyland will be reopened in June. If the trip is postponed until autumn, cancellation fees will have to be paid to the hotel.

“Everything is up in the air at the moment,” the principal said. “If we make changes that will incur additional costs, we have to ask for parents’ approval.”

According to the Japan School Trip Association’s Nagoya branch, most public junior high schools in Aichi have been holding their field trips in May or June in recent years. And for 96 percent of those, the destination is the Kanto region and surrounding areas, including Tokyo, the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture and the Fuji Five Lakes in Yamanashi Prefecture.

In the city of Ichinomiya, all of the junior high schools are thinking about changing the date of their school tours scheduled in May or June to some time around September.

“We are worried because the situation of the outbreak in Tokyo is worsening, but we hope it will not last until September,” said a principal of one of the schools.

Hekinan, which is also planning field trips to Tokyo for junior high school students in May or June, decided to change the destination to other areas while keeping the date.

Explaining the reason for not changing the date of the trips, Hiroyuki Ikuta, head of the city’s education board, said: “It is difficult to make reservations in autumn, which is the high season, and we don’t know if the coronavirus outbreak will be contained (by then). If we wait until later than that, then the trip could overlap with the time when students make important decisions on their future course after graduation.”

The city is considering alternatives places where students can engage in both sightseeing and experiential learning, such as Fuji Safari Park in Shizuoka Prefecture and Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture.

Elementary schools, which hold field trips for sixth graders to areas other than the Kanto region, are also affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sunadabashi Elementary School in Nagoya postponed its school trip to Kyoto and Nara prefectures from late May to mid-July, thinking that parents might voice concerns if the trip was conducted as scheduled.

“When we told the hotel (about the postponement), the only other options the hotel offered were July and December, so we decided it would be better to travel (in July) than in winter when days are shorter,” said Hiroshi Noguchi, the school’s principal.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published March 28. After this story was published, Hekinan city announced it would postpone all school trips later in the fiscal year. They will reconsider the destinations as well.

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