HIRONO, Fukushima — Public elementary and junior high schools here reopened Aug. 27, a year and a half after the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered a crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and the town fell under the government-designated emergency evacuation preparation zone.
The town held a joint reopening ceremony at Hirono Elementary School in a bid to encourage former town residents to come home nearly one year after the town’s evacuation zone designation was lifted. Attending the ceremony were kindergartners and students and their parents.
But the number of students is now only around 20 percent of pre-disaster enrollment levels due to prolonged life at evacuation centers and lingering fears of radiation. The number of elementary school students totaled 65, or 23.6 percent of the total before the nuclear disaster, and that of junior high school students came to 31, or 18.5 percent of the total.
Even after this town was declared safe and extricated itself from the zone in September last year, local officials rented rooms at schools in neighboring Iwaki for Hirono students until the end of the first semester.
Chika Oide, a 14-year-old second-year student at Hirono Junior High School who commutes from temporary housing in Iwaki, says some of her classmates belonging to an academy inside the J-Village national soccer training center in her hometown are not returning from evacuation in Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture. But she says she wants to assist in holding a successful cultural festival this autumn.