Updated: August 12, 2021 12:28:47 pm
A day after coming out with a detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) for reopening schools from August 17, the Maharashtra government is rethinking the plan in view of opposition from the state Covid-19 task force. The issue was discussed in the state Cabinet on Wednesday.
“The task force members have expressed opposition to reopening schools. The task force has expressed fears that students below the age of 18 have not been vaccinated… they feel that risk should not be taken,” Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.
“The CM will hold a meeting with the state task force and the school education department. A final decision will be taken in that meeting,” Tope added. Sources said a meeting was held later in the day but no decision was taken.
Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad had last week announced that offline classes would commence in rural areas for students from class V to VIII, while in cities, physical classes will be held for students from class VIII to XII following Covid-19 protocols.
On Tuesday, the government issued the SOP for the reopening, which stated that schools should reopen only in those villages and cities where the number of Covid-19 cases has seen a substantial decline over the last month. School managements were asked to commence a ‘Back to School’ campaign to let students know that schools will be restarting.
The SOP added that physical attendance should not be made compulsory and schools need to take consent of parents before asking their wards to physically attend classes.
The government directed the setting up of a four-member committee headed by municipal commissioners in Mumbai, Mumbai suburban and Thane to take a decision on reopening schools in their respective jurisdictions. Similar committees headed by respective district collectors have been tasked with taking a decision keeping in view the Covid-19 situation in the area.
Schools in the state have been closed since March 2020, since the pandemic started. Classes are being held online.
In July this year, the government had decided to reopen schools in places where no Covid-19 cases had been reported in a month. Subsequently, from July 12, 5,947 schools in rural areas resumed physical teaching for classes VIII to XII.
Schools in various states, including Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, have reopened recently.
Maharashtra at present has 19,997 secondary and higher secondary schools, in which over 45 lakh students study in classes VIII to XII.
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