Miyake lower schools kick off new year
APR 12, 2005, Japan Times

An elementary school and a junior high school on Miyake Island held opening ceremonies for the new academic year Monday for the first time since all residents were evacuated amid volcanic eruptions in summer 2000.

Students — 40 for the elementary school and 24 for the junior high school — attended the ceremonies while carrying special masks to protect themselves from volcanic gas.

They were all distributed with waist bags to carry the masks.

The schools are also installed with desulfurization equipment to clean up the sulfur dioxide in the volcanic gas.

“Welcome back to the island,” Principal Yukichi Saito said at the ceremony for the elementary high school.

Third-grader Taishi Asanuma, 8, said, “I don’t feel too afraid of volcanic gas.”

On Tuesday, both the elementary and junior high schools will hold entrance ceremonies where a total of 15 new students — seven for the elementary school and eight for the junior high school — will join.

As a result, the total number of students at the elementary and junior high schools will come to 79, down from 327 seen before the 2000 evacuation.

But the total number at the schools is expected to rise as several other students are expected to move back to the island soon.

Miyake residents started returning to the island in February.