Kumamoto school system recovers

Several public schools resumed classes on Monday in parts of Kumamoto hardest hit by the twin earthquakes last month. The others are expected to reopen mid-week.

A total of 62 public primary and secondary schools in Mashiki, Minamiaso and six other municipalities in the prefecture resumed classes on Monday, while 111 others, including high schools and special schools, were scheduled to restart in the next two days.

Some operations will remain disrupted as elementary and middle school students have to share buildings in some cases, and some will be forced to stay in dormitories to attend classes.

In adjacent Oita Prefecture, the last stretch of a highway shut down by the mid-April earthquakes reopened at noon the same day, restoring the entire Kyushu highway network after a hiatus of 25 days, the transport ministry said.

After the high-intensity 6.5 magnitude earthquake on April 14 and the 7.3 magnitude earthquake two days later, school closures in Kumamoto Prefecture peaked on April 18, with 401 of its 614 public schools suspended.

Some have reopened after confirming the integrity of their buildings and electricity and water supplies.

Four elementary schools in the town of Mashiki, still home to 900 people whose homes were badly damaged, have asked evacuees to move and relocate to gymnasiums so classes can resume.

Of those still closed, elementary and middle schools will resume classes by Wednesday, while all 19 high schools and 11 special schools are expected to reopen on Tuesday.

At Takaki Primary School in Mifune City, the children arrived accompanied by their parents.

“I’m relieved everyone is safe,” principal Ikuo Iwashita told students gathered for an assembly in the library.

“I can’t wait to play with my friends,” said third-grade student Karen Matsushita. But her mother, Naoko, was not so enthusiastic.

“I’m always afraid to take my eyes off her. Suppose there is another earthquake,” she said.

With some roads and railways cut off by earthquake-triggered landslides, Kyushu Railway Co. began operating special school buses between Aso and Otsu to help high school students get to class.

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