Seven elementary and junior high schools in Fukushima Prefecture will become the first public ones to close as a consequence of the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Thirty-eight elementary and junior high schools from 10 municipalities relocated outside the evacuation zones after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
The schools lost 80 percent of the 7,681 students they had before the disaster. But until now, the municipalities kept them open because officials feared the loss of the children who were to support their communities.
In the Tabito district of Iwaki, 60 kilometers southwest of the crippled plant, 105 children were studying at seven elementary and junior high schools in fiscal 2010.
In fiscal 2014, which starts from April 1, only 55 will attend one elementary school and one junior high school, which will take the place of three elementary schools and two junior high schools, respectively.
An Iwaki official said many families who originally migrated there from the Tokyo metropolitan area have left the prefecture due to radiation concerns.
Mano Elementary School in Minami-Soma, 30 km north of the plant, will be merged into a nearby school after the number of pupils dropped to 43 from a pre-quake number of 75.
In addition, Onami Elementary School in Fukushima, 60 km northwest of the plant, will be closed in fiscal 2014. In June 2011, an annualized air radiation dose of 16.3 millisieverts was detected in the schoolyard, the highest among the 1,729 education facilities in the prefecture.
The dose dropped below the government goal of 1 millisievert after decontamination work was carried out, but the number of pupils fell from 30 in fiscal 2011 to only one in fiscal 2013.
Unlike the six other schools, which will be delisted, Onami Elementary School may reopen in the future.
Elsewhere in Fukushima Prefecture, schools are struggling to keep their children.
The town of Futaba will reopen three elementary and junior high schools in temporary facilities in Iwaki in April despite just having a total of seven students. There were 551 children before the quake.
The town of Tomioka and the village of Katsurao have reopened three elementary schools in Miharu since September 2011, but no first-graders are expected to join in April.
According to the prefectural education board, there were 12,648 students who were forced to evacuate and study elsewhere in and outside the prefecture as of May 1, little changed from the 13,286 reported in September 2011.
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March 15th, 2014