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Maharashtra: Classes I-VIII to reopen from December 1

November 26, 2021

The Maharashtra cabinet has decided to reopen schools for classes I-IV in rural areas and classes I-VII in urban areas from December 1st in the third phase of school reopening in the state. Amidst a sharp decline in COVID cases and a rise in the vaccination coverage in the state the decision was taken on November 23 by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and his cabinet along with the state’s paediatric task force.

Announcing the decision on a social media platform, the state’s education minister, Varsha Gaikwad said, “In the next six days, the emphasis will be on acclimatising schools, parents and children towards a safe transition to physical classes as classrooms have been shut for nearly two years. We will hold consultations with school management committees and parents.”  Keeping in mind the well-being and health of some of the children who may be attending physical schools for the first time, the minister will also hold consultations with the state’s paediatric task force on the need to update the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for re-opening of schools.

Maharashtra’s paediatric task force, led by Dr Suhas Prabhu, consultant for paediatric infectious diseases at PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Mumbai, has been recommending safety protocols to the government’s COVID related SOPs for reopening schools. Maharashtra allowed schools a phase-wise reopening of physical classes from July this year. In the first phase, following the government resolution (dated July 7), schools in rural areas that didn’t report COVID cases in the preceding month were allowed to hold offline classrooms for classes VIII to XII. In October, physical classes were resumed for classes V-XII in urban areas and classes V to XII in rural areas.

Earlier in May the state’s health minister, Rajesh Tope set up a paediatric task force comprising 13 experts to prepare for the COVID’s third wave that is likely to impact young children. However on Wednesday, November 24, the health minister allayed public concern saying the impact of the third wave of COVID, expected in December, will be mild and not require medical oxygen and ICU beds. He also said 80 percent of Maharashtra’s citizens were already vaccinated. The number of active COVID infection cases in the state remained below 10,000 for three consecutive days as on Tuesday (November 22).

Welcoming the government’s move to reopen physical schools to younger students, Dr Swati Popat Vats, president, Early Childhood Association of India said, “It is a well thought out decision taken after weighing all the pros and cons. However, teachers will have to be extra supportive to the many children for whom studying in physical classrooms is going to be a new experience. For instance, those currently in grade 1 could find physical classes overwhelming at the start since they only attended it during their pre-primary before the lockdown. Also as we move towards the normalisation of schools – from online to offline once again, both parents and the school management will have to work together to build trust between them. They will have to resolve issues that came up during the lockdown when schools shifted from offline to online teaching.” 

Also read: Maharashtra: Aided schools ask government to bear SOP expenses

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