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With the coronavirus continuing to spread in Japan, junior high schools are rushing to tweak their entrance examinations to ensure test-takers’ safety.

According to major preparatory schools and other sources, most junior high schools in Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture, where entrance exams will take place in February, have decided to require test-takers to wear face masks and have their body temperatures checked. Some schools will shorten exam times so that test-takers do not have to eat lunch between tests. This will also allow them to come to the school at different times on the day of the entrance exams.

To avoid overcrowding, many schools will not allow accompanying parents to wait inside the school while their children are taking the exams. People from preparatory schools will not be allowed to gather, either. They usually offer encouragement to students at the entrances of the junior high schools where the exams take place.

Jissen Gakuen Junior High School in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward will reduce the number of seats in classrooms in order to ensure there is a proper distance between test-takers. Each desk will be equipped with a three-sided plastic shield to avoid transmissions of the virus. In addition, these classrooms will be disinfected and sealed off until the day of the tests.

“We’re giving highest priority to safety and security,” a school official said.

Eleven prefectures, including Tokyo, Kanagawa and Osaka, are now under a state of emergency, which is slated to run until Feb. 7.

More than 100 schools plan to offer additional exams for applicants who are forced to miss the originally scheduled tests due to contracting the virus or having close contact with an infected individual.

Kaisei Junior High School in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward, one of the most competitive junior high schools in the country, has decided to hold additional entrance exams for the first time.

It is not easy to prepare the questions for additional exams, but an official of the boys’ school said, “We must not deny students who have worked hard and made a lot of efforts an opportunity to take the exam.”

The school also decided to forego the practice of releasing at the school premises the names of students who pass.

Yokohama Futaba Junior High School, a school for girls in Yokohama, decided to cancel interviews for exam-takers and their parents or guardians.

The interviews have been an opportunity for the school and families to deepen mutual understanding, an official said. “We, however, made a tough decision this time, taking students’ concerns into consideration.”

Kitakamakura Joshigakuen Girls’ Junior High School in Kamakura, Kanagawa, will hold online exams for self-introduction in English and composition, in addition to in-person exams. Applicants who choose the online exams will be interviewed by examiners via a web conferencing system.

“We’ll offer the online exams as an option for test-takers,” an official of the school said. “The ways of conducting entrance exams may change further in the future,” the official added, noting that remote lessons are also being introduced more widely.

Online entrance exams still face challenges, including how to secure fairness, and therefore have so far been adopted by only a limited number of schools, according to a person in the education sector.

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