The schools in Maharashtra will resume in-person classes for standard 5th to 12th in rural areas and 8th to 12th in urban areas from November 4, announced the state Education Minister. The remaining classes, including pre-schools and kindergartens, will remain shut, as the government anticipate opening schools in a phased manner.
Since the pandemic’s beginning, the government shut the schools in the state in March of last year as the country went into a national lockdown. The student community had then shifted to an online mode of learning. Since then, the students of more than 19,000 secondary and higher secondary schools in the state have depended on e-learning platforms.
On Friday, Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad said that CM Uddhav Thackerey had approved to reopen schools.
Not compulsory for everyone to attend
The School Education Minister clarified that there is no pressure on students to attend offline classes.
“Though the schools will reopen, there is no compulsion for students to attend physical classes, and parents’ consent is required for students to attend physical classes. Students can be called on alternate days, and physical distancing should be maintained,” Gaikwad informed the press.
The minister referred to a survey conducted by the School Education Department which found that around 70 per cent of parents wanted physical classes to resume. She also assured the students and parents that the school administrations would take all necessary precautions to prevent a further spread of Covid-19 through schools.
School health clinics are among some of the precautions
Gaikwad added that the pediatric task force and the educational field experts had made some suggestions, and the government had incorporated them while finalizing the decision to reopen schools.
The School Education Department of the state has released a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to ensure that resumption of physical classes will not lead to Covid-19 cluster formations in schools. School administrations will set up health clinics, and sports activities will be restricted.
The guidelines necessitate wearing masks and ensuring proper sanitization facilities. Students and teachers should strictly follow social distancing inside classrooms. “Every school will have to conduct a parent-teacher meeting and apprise students about precautions as well as immediate steps to be taken by the school administration,” the minister said.
The expert panel which formed the SOPs has also asked the government to prefer areas with fewer Covid-19 cases and high vaccination numbers while reopening schools.
The state’s earlier attempts to reopen schools had failed
Maharashtra had earlier announced its plans to open up educational institutions, but the state Covid-19 task force discouraged the government.
The Education Minister reminded the press that the state had issued SOPs earlier in July and August too. But the fear of an impending third wave and the discussion that followed in the cabinet stopped the resumption of offline classes in Maharashtra. This time, both the Covid-19 task force and the state health department resonate with the education department on the issue.
The government have also empowered the local authorities to help in bringing children back to schools, Gaikwad concluded.
On Thursday, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said that the state would reopen its colleges in a phased manner after analyzing the Covid-19 situation. He also informed that students above 18 years must be fully vaccinated.
The government also relaxed restrictions on places of worship starting from October 7.