Maharashtra: Govt seeks opinion of parents for reopening schools from Nov 23

Unlock 5: How schools are preparing to reopen across India

October 23, 2020
– Sukanya Nandy and Dipta Joshi

On September 30, 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued new guidelines for reopening of schools, colleges and educational institutions after October 15.  The ministry stated, “For re-opening of schools and coaching institutions, state/ UT governments have been given the flexibility to take a decision after October 15, 2020, in a graded manner. The decision shall be taken in consultation with the respective school/ institution management, based on their assessment of the situation.”

While several states are yet to decide on when and how to commence physical classes, some states have already resumed partial classes for students of classes 9 to 12. States like Assam, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab have allowed students to attend classes from September with their parents’ permission, Uttar Pradesh reopened schools on October 19 and Andhra Pradesh has decided to open schools from Monday, November 2 following necessary Covid-19 protocols. Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal are yet to take a decision.

Sharmila Sunny, principal, St Xavier’s High School, Mumbai tells EducationWorld that the school will follow the state government’s directives regarding school re-opening. “We will, of course, have to rework the time-table and teacher’s schedules since teachers conducting online classes for secondary section classes cannot be expected to attend school too on the same day. Some of our staff travel by the local trains to reach the school so we will need to take those factors too into account.”

Sanjay Malpani, founder of Dhruv Global School, a day-cum-residential school at Sangamner, Maharashtra says, “Boarding schools are the safest zones since we have full control over the children’s activities once they join. It is the day scholars that we are worried about since they interact with outsiders. During our interactions with our students, we have realised that they are really looking forward to joining the school because of the outdoor facilities they will be able to enjoy in a safe and sanitised environment. We have our own infirmary, doctor on call and hospital tie-ups to handle any problems that arise despite our best efforts to maintain social distancing norms.” 

Vivek Vemuru, executive director of the Accord School, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, says his school has charted out a detailed plan on the safety measures to be followed by the students and staff as well as reworked the physical and online class timings for their children. The AP government has issued a notification to start physical classes for classes 1 to 12 for parents who are interested to send their wards to schools. The school comprising of 1900 students (1500 day boarders and 400 full boarders) conducted a survey among the parents and found that among day boarders, more than 70 percent of parents are not willing to send their kids to school and are happy with the current online classes. While among full boarders, about 60 percent parents are willing to send their kids to stay in hostel only if the school conducts classes for full boarding students separately without clubbing them with day students. 

Vemuru explains, “As per the circular, we are supposed to conduct classes for half day session for grades 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 on one weekday and 2, 4, 6, 8 grades on another day and continue with this alternate schedule for the entire week. We are also not supposed to have more than 16 students in one classroom while strictly following one student per bench rule and adhering to social distancing norms.” He adds that the management has charted out a plan comprising online and offline classes for all grades as well as for co-curricular activities.

He adds, “Every student while picking up in the school bus will be checked for temperature, must carry masks, face shield and hand sanitiser. Bus support staff will be wearing PPE kits and gloves. Once students are in school their temperature will be checked again and will be asked to sanitise their hands, bags properly. Display boards will be posted emphasising on social distancing norms and standard protocols. The first two weeks, each class teacher will be training students on the safety measures that every student must follow. Hostel students will be separated and classes will be conducted for them in a separate building away from the day boarders. In-house nurse and on-call doctor will be available for any emergencies.”

On a similar note, CMO of VIBGYOR Group of Schools, Lucknow branch, Peshwa Acharya says, “Following the UP government’s directive to reopen schools from October 19 onwards, we reopened our Lucknow campus from October 20 for grades 9 to 12. In all our campuses that have reopened, or will be reopened in future we will follow strict protocols in the school. However, our priority is getting the consent from the parents/legal guardians. Without their consent, we will not go ahead.

All safety guidelines will be stringently followed when physical classes resume. We will be enforcing the use of masks on campus, and regular thermal screenings will be conducted for everyone present. Staff rooms, classrooms, and other common areas are being rearranged to maintain social distancing and will have signage in places to help adhere to the norms. All campuses including classrooms, laboratories, corridors, and elevators will be thoroughly disinfected before reopening. The cafeteria is going to be closed and we are not encouraging anyone to have food on the school premises, since classes will only be conducted for 3-4 hours. All further decisions will also be taken as per the government guidelines.”

Dr K R Maalathi, advisor, SRM Public School, Chennai says, “The government has issued a circular that if children have any doubts, they can come to school to clarify it but no regular conduct of physical classes has been notified. We conducted a survey of the parents if they are willing to to send their children to school during this time. Around 95 percent of the parents were not interested to send their kids to school due to the increase in the number of cases and preferred the online mode of teaching.”

“However, we have made all the arrangements ready if students want to come to school – how to divide them in different classes, timings as well as thermal screening and sanitary arrangement. Despite that, we were surprised to see most parents did not want to send their children. Hence, we have decided against reopening now,” she adds.

Read: IAP formulates guidelines for school reopening and remote learning

Also read: Karnataka government mulling reopen of colleges next month

Also read: Karnataka: 500 private schools on the brink of closure

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