In a media briefing before the Executive Council meeting, Lam said the desire to reopen all schools on April 20 is "not possible because of the global situation that we have seen and especially because this virus is a bit tricky.
"There’s a lot pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic cases in society, so I’m saying that even if the situation stabilises to the extent that we could resume, it will be by phases."
About 900,000 kindergarten, primary and secondary students in local and international schools have been out of school since February 3. April 20 was proposed as a tentative date to resume all classes. However, in light of this week’s announcement, some schools will remain shut beyond this date and schools will reopen in phases.
Lam said: “We will be starting with the oldest students in the senior secondary [education], so the chances [of] very young kids [going] back to school within the next one to two months will be quite slim.”
The extended closures mean that students will now be missing more than 12 weeks of learning on campus. But can online learning be delivered effectively by schools in Hong Kong for more than three months of an academic year? And what will be done to support students who are due to sit international curricula exams including IGCSEs, SATS, A Levels and the IBDP?
Also, what will be the financial consequences of extending school closures in Hong Kong? It’s around this time of year when schools ask parents to indicate whether they will be returning for the following academic year, and when bills for Term 3 tuition are sent out. Will there be an exodus of families from Hong Kong from Easter? And what will be the consequences for schools if Term 3 payments do not come flooding in?
These are questions that schools will need to urgently address over the next few days and weeks as more trying times lie ahead for students and their families in Hong Kong.
Read more: How Well Are Hong Kong Schools Coping With School Closures?