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Third of kids miss kindergarten opening amid safety fears

ON the first day of the new semester yesterday, 71 of the 203 registered children were absent from school at a downtown kindergarten whose environmental safety is under debate.

The absences marred the debut of the just-completed new campus facility for the relocated Wunan Kindergarten. Some interior work was delayed by months, and while the new building was complete, some painting and other finishing touches were still ongoing shortly before the school's opening day. Some parents raised serious concerns about environmental safety, voicing special concerns about the indoor air quality.

The absences were partly related to the worries. Gong Min, the kindergarten head, told Shanghai Daily yesterday that most of the junior-grade children were present yesterday but 64 of the 108 senior-graders were absent. The school has only two grades.

"The absence rate on the first school day for senior classes was unusually low," Gong said.

She said some parents asked for leave for fear of pollution but others were absent for other reasons, such as unfinished holidays.

"Some parents did tell us they would wait for one month to send the kids here as they believe air quality could improve by then," she said.

In response to the complaints, the district education bureau agreed to hire a professional agency to recheck the interior air quality. Parents had challenged a previous inspection report from a local company, saying it was not reliable and the standards it adopted were too low.

School officials said they would cooperate on the new test.

For now, the school is trying to purify the air to help quickly dilute any possible effects from the newly completed work. The efforts include placing extra plants and adding air-purifying machines inside the classrooms and corridors.

The kindergarten on Huaihai Road M is a model facility, crowned by the city government for its good service quality. It's also among the first schools in town allowed by the education watchdog to open a branch for expatriate children.


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