Two days after releasing and immediately deleting a government resolution (GR) directing reopening of schools for classes 8 to 12 in no-covid zones, the state school education department released an updated GR on Wednesday. As per this GR, schools in zones with not a single Covid-19 case will be allowed to restart physical classes for students from classes 8-12, after receiving consent of parents.
The GR further specifies the formation of an eight-member committee consisting of local collectors, school principals and health officials to decide on Covid-free zones. In rural areas, this committee will be headed by the head of the gram panchayat to decide which school can be allowed to start physical classes. Similarly, each district will form the said committee and schools will need a go-ahead from the committee before reopening, states the GR.
“Due to the lockdown, children from across the state have been holed up in their houses and missed out on quality education. Their education is limited to what they learn online which is leading to other trouble like addiction to screen time and even depression in some cases. Drop out rate has also increased in rural parts and the only solution for this is reopening of schools in a phased manner,” said the GR.
It further stated that schools and junior colleges will follow basic standard operating procedure (SOP) and maintain social distancing and regular temperature check of students when on campus. “Schools need to ensure that not more than 20 students should be seated in a class to ensure proper social distancing rules is followed,” adds the GR.
In November last year, the school education department had released a similar circular announcing re-opening of schools for classes 9 to 12 in a phased manner. By January, another circular was released directing students from classes 5 to 8 be brought back to school in groups and maintain Covid appropriate behaviour on campus. “Both these circulars were revoked once Covid cases started rising again and the state government called for another complete lockdown starting mid-April,” said a state education department official.
While the GR released on Monday was deleted after some stakeholders complained about loopholes in the process, the new GR on Wednesday specifies details of how the re-opening will take place. Schools in Mumbai, however, feel this GR will be impossible to implement in districts like Mumbai, Thane and Pune.
“The Covid situation in the state is still precarious and therefore, reopening of schools can’t be implemented across all districts. In cities like Mumbai, Thane and Pune parents will never give consent for school reopening unless zero cases are reported in the city, or government starts vaccination for children as well,” said the principal of a south Mumbai school. She added that continuing classes online for the current semester at least is the only feasible option for schools at thr moment.