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Delhi: Schools reopen, but most say full bus services are not feasible

Schools had reopened for classes IX to XII on September 1 and for up to class VIII on November 1, only to close after two weeks due to the rising air pollution in the city.

Despite schools returning to the offline mode, bus services have been much slower to restart. (Express Archive)

With schools reopening for all classes today, after being shut due to pollution, a handful of schools will also be resuming their bus services for students who wish to avail of it.

Schools had reopened for classes IX to XII on September 1 and for up to class VIII on November 1, only to close after two weeks due to the rising air pollution in the city. Despite schools returning to the offline mode, bus services were much slower to restart. While a few schools will resume their transport services with limited services from Monday, a majority of schools are yet to do so.

“It is a logistical challenge . Financially it can be a source of loss as expenses are incurred only for a few students who will use it. But we know many students can only come if bus services are available because dropping them is difficult for working parents. Between 60 and 70 % of students have given their consent to come to school, of whom 15 per cent have asked for bus services. Depending on the location of these students, we have redrawn our bus routes and the buses will operate at a 50% capacity,” said Kavita Soni, principal Venkateshwar Global School, Rohini.

Students are attending the school on alternate days. According to Soni, while the school has not increased its transport fees, parents will be asked to remit the fees for the entire month even if the students only use it for half the working days.

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At St.Thomas School Dwarka, only 10 per cent of the original bus users have opted to avail of bus services.

“The overall numbers are small but we have been receiving requests from parents since pick-up and drop are difficult for them. We are not starting the entire fleet of buses; just six buses on rationalised routes. We are still waiting to see what the actual turnout will be, but at some point in time we will move towards normalcy,” said principal Meneka Singh.

According to Bharat Arora, General Secretary of Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools, an umbrella body of over 400 private schools in the city, less than 10 per cent of the schools are offering transport services.

“Some schools have little clarity due to a lack of SOPs regarding school buses. Conducting fitness tests of buses since they have been inactive for a year and a half is also a slow process. The cost involved is huge. However, the truth is schools can’t wholly operate without restarting bus facilities,” he said.

A few other schools restarting their services are Colonel Satsangi’s Kiran Memorial Public School, Red Roses Public School and Sri Venkateshwar International School Dwarka.

“We will be operating 12 of the 26 buses in our fleet with 40 per cent of the original bus users saying that they wish to avail of this service. We’ve combined some of the routes and made adjustments. It’s not cost-effective at all for schools but we don’t want any student to miss out on coming to school because of this, and we also don’t want any of them using school vans. The transport fees have been increased by 15% but only because of petrol prices, we are not looking at the numbers at all,” said principal Nita Arora.

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