SEOUL — The number of students attending Defense Department schools in Japan continued to drop Wednesday, although officials insist there were no plans to shut down any schools.
About 2,900 of the 8,500 students on mainland Japan did not attend class on Wednesday, about 200 more absences than were reported a day earlier, according to Department of Defense Education Activity officials.
Ikego Primary School, near Yokosuka Naval Base, has seen the largest drop in attendance since the March 11 earthquake struck northern Japan, triggering a tsunami and launching a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. On the day of the earthquake, 214 students had attended class. On Wednesday, there were only 62, a 71 percent decrease.
Large attendance drops were reported at all schools at Yokosuka: 67 percent at Sullivans Elementary School, 59 percent at Yokosuka Middle School, and 55 percent at Nile C. Kinnick High School.
Still, as long as there are students, there will be school, according to Charly Hoff, DODEA Pacific spokesman.
“We intend to keep schools open as long as we have military families to take care of, even if it’s only one family at one school,” Hoff said, a task that might require consolidating classes and transportation if numbers continued to dwindle. “It’s going to take us several more days before things stabilize and we can figure out what we’re going to do.”
Meanwhile, DODEA has started running 24-hour “crisis centers” in Okinawa and Arlington, Va., for employees and parents of students affected by the voluntary departures in Japan. Another crisis center in Germany was helping those affected by similar departures from Bahrain.
The center, at least on Okinawa, was less a physical location than a telephone hotline and an e-mail address being answered at DODEA’s office by human resources staff and senior leaders, including DODEA Pacific director Diana Ohman.
“We’re taking turns answering the phones and e-mails,” Hoff said. Most people submitted their questions by e-mail, he said, and many were posting questions on DODEA Pacific’s Facebook site – including one question from a high school student about what he should do with his saxophone and textbooks. DODEA’s response: leave them at home and the school system would work out any problems later.
As of Wednesday evening, the Okinawa center had received approximately 30 e-mails and five phone calls since Sunday, Hoff said.
Most questions came from employees looking for information about pay and benefits, Hoff said. Parents frequently asked about the transition to other schools, including how to get transcripts and other student records, how to enroll children in stateside schools, and how to continue their education during their absence from school.
DODEA announced Tuesday that parents will be able to pre-register their children for the 2011-2012 school year at https://registration.dodea.edu.
How to contact DODEA’s crisis center in Okinawa
From the U.S., call:
From Japan, call:
098-911-5111 and ask the operator to connect to 644-5652.