The education ministry will likely fall short of its goal to make all public primary and middle school buildings earthquake resistant by the end of fiscal 2015, with about 2 per cent of them, or about 2,400 structures, lacking sufficient resistance, ministry sources said.
The probable failure to meet the deadline seems, in part, to reflect a lack of funding by local governments and time-consuming discussions on the consolidation and abolition of public schools.
In May 2011, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry revised its basic improvement policy for public primary and middle school facilities in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake two months earlier.
The revised policy stipulates that the government aims to "complete work to raise earthquake-resistance levels of the schools by the end of March 2016."
The ministry set a goal for all public primary and middle school buildings to be able to endure tremors of upper 6 or stronger on the Japanese quake intensity scale of 7.
However, the ministry found that as of April 2014, 92.5 per cent of the nation's 120,000 primary and middle school buildings had completed quake-resistance work. A total of 8,956 buildings still need replacement or reinforcement work.
Of them, quake-resistance work will be completed at about 6,500 buildings by the end of fiscal 2015, leaving 2 per cent still without sufficient earthquake resistance.
The government's raising of subsidy rates for the work to improve quake-resistance levels is scheduled to end at the end of fiscal 2015.
After that, the financial burdens of municipal governments will be greater, possibly delaying the work further.
By the end of 2014, only 56 per cent of public primary and middle schools in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, had completed quake-resistance work. The number of buildings yet to have work done was the second-highest in the nation at 173, and the city government expects the work to be completed in fiscal 2020.
In Asahikawa, Hokkaido, 10 primary and middle schools will remain without sufficient quake-resistance levels by the end of fiscal 2015. The city government decided to replace seven of the buildings, but the work has been delayed because of a shortfall of funds. As for the remaining three, the city government said delays were caused because the abolition or merger of the schools were still under discussion.