Primary and secondary schools to reopen on Monday unless haze forecast deteriorates back to hazardous levels

Two students arriving at Kong Hwa School after 7am on Sept 25, 2015.
Two students arriving at Kong Hwa School after 7am on Sept 25, 2015.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Primary and secondary schools will reopen on Monday (Sept 28) unless the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) forecast on Sunday indicates that a hazardous level of haze is expected.

If so, the Ministry of Education will consider closing schools again, it announced in a multi-agency haze briefing on Friday (Sept 25) evening. Parents will be informed through the schools if that happens.

About 3,300 students - less than 1 per cent of the total primary and secondary school cohort - reported to school on Friday morning despite the late announcement yesterday evening to shut schools. The Education Ministry, in consultation with the Health Ministry, made the decision to close schools just before 8.30pm on Thursday, based on the National Environment Agency's (NEA) 7pm forecast.

Students who went to school today were held indoor areas like libraries and computer labs, and took part in self-directed learning and group activities.

About 30 children reported to the 10 MOE kindergartens, 3 per cent of the total cohort.

At other kindergartens and childcare centres, lessons and programmes were scaled down. Kindergarten attendance was largely low. Fifty per cent of kindergartens saw no children attending. On the other hand, 98 per cent of childcare centres received children but in reduced numbers.

At the briefing, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the Government will be reviewing its sustainable procurement policy to weed out errant companies, and look into supporting firms that are recognised for their sustainable practices.

 
 
 

He said: "As far as possible, this will take into account the practices of their suppliers and their logistics chain to make sure they meet both social and environment standards."

Dr Balakrishnan added: "Companies trying to do business in Singapore now have to be very careful as we are investigating, demanding transparency."

Dr Balakrishnan also identified four Indonesian companies that are suspected to have links to the fires that are causing the haze. They are: PT Rimba Hutani Mas, PT Sebangun Bumi Andalas Wood Industries, PT Bumi Sriwijaya Sentosa and PT Wachyuni Mandira. He said these firms have been issued a notice, requesting them to deploy measures including sending firefighting personal to extinguish fires and discontinuing any burning activities. 

The NEA has served one Singapore-listed company, Asia Pulp & Paper Company Ltd, a notice under Section 10 of the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act seeking information on its subsidiaries in Singapore and Indonesia, and fire-fighting measures taken by its suppliers in Indonesia. 

The authorities said hazy conditions are expected to persist for the rest of Friday and on Saturday (Sept 26) as prevailing winds blow in from the south or south-east.

The 24-hour PSI for the 24 hours is expected to remain in the very unhealthy range and may gradually fall to the high end of the unhealthy range. Improvements in the situation can be expected over the weekend, but hazy conditions are likely to persist.