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Shijiazhuang in Hebei province ordered schools to suspend classes on Wednesday due to persistent smog that has haunted the city for five consecutive days.
The order mainly affects primary schools and kindergartens inside the city.
Other schools in suburban counties are to decide whether to suspend classes based on local air conditions, according to a notice released on Tuesday by the Shijiazhuang Bureau of Education.
Shijiazhuang has suffered almost 10 rounds of severe smog this winter, with its Air Quality Index frequently exceeding 500, the most hazardous level.
For November, it’s the city with the worst air quality among 74 major cities moni- tored by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Severe smog also hit other cities in North, Central and East China on Friday last week and was forecast to persist and get worse on Wednesday.
As of Sunday, more than 20 cities, including Beijing and cities in Hebei, had issued red alerts, the most serious level for air pollution. As of Tuesday, many cities, including Tianjin, had issued orange alerts, the second-most serious level.
Beijing, Tianjin and two other cities in Hebei — Langfang and Hengshui — also ordered schools to stop classes, some from Tuesday to Wednesday, with others just for Tuesday.
Other cities in Hebei didn’t take similar moves, leaving netizens questioning why students still have to go to school during such bad weather.
“It’s a hard decision to make, because complications will follow after schools are suspended,” said Zhou Huijie, a publicity worker at the educational bureau of Jinzhou, a small city under the administration of Shijiazhuang.
In many cases, parents or adults cannot be at home to take care of young students during weekdays, according to Zhou.
Zhao Jingru, head of Jinhe Kindergarten in Shijiazhuang, said she preferred for schools not to be ordered or forced to suspend classes.
“If parents or other relatives could take care of the children during work days, they could ask for leave,” said Zhao, adding that sending children to school would spare a lot of trouble for families without adults at home during the day.
Zhao said different schools can take various measures, such as stopping outside activities or stopping new lessons, when many students are away.
“Despite such bad air, there is not much difference between children staying at home or staying in classrooms,” she said.
Despite such bad air, there is not much difference between children staying at home or staying in classrooms.” Zhao Jingru