December 15, 2021 11:54:23 pm
After a gap of 20 months, primary and middle school students in Mumbai returned to in-person classes on Wednesday. Students were welcomed back on school campuses across Maharashtra capital with flowers, decorations, Santa Claus and cartoon characters. Schools ensured sanitisers and social-distancing protocols even as parents said they were happy albeit cautious about sending their children back to school.
Out of a total of 6,53,239 students in Classes 1 to 7, 1,80,640, i.e. 27 per cent of the total strength, attended the classes on the first day of reopening of schools.
There are over 10 lakh students in Classes 1 to 7 across civic-run and private schools in the city. About 92 per cent of civic-run schools – 2,246 out of a total of 2,434 – reopened on Wednesday. The data on the total number of private schools that reopened on Wednesday was not available.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in the Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) released earlier, had stated that parents’ consent is necessary for students to attend school and that attendance is not compulsory. Only parents of 36 per cent of students, i.e., 2,35,119 students, from BMC schools have given consent for their children to attend in-person classes, the civic body said.
According to data, the staff strength of BMC’s education department and civic-run schools, including teachers, is 60,000, of which 95 per cent have taken at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. BMC said it is ensuring all its staffers are fully vaccinated at the earliest.
Schools in Maharashtra were closed down in March 2020 after the outbreak of the pandemic.
Earlier, the decision to reopen schools from December 1 in the city was postponed to December 15 due to the detection of the Omicron variant of coronavirus. In the past fortnight, schools conducted parent-teacher online meetings to address doubts and queries related to in-person classes.
Sujata Narendra, a resident of Prem Nagar, Goregaon, who was seen dropping her ward – a Class 3 student – to school, said, “It was increasingly getting difficult for me to get my daughter away from the mobile phone…At least with two hours of classes, she will step out of the house, interact with her friends and teachers.”
While civic-run schools in the city resumed physical classes, a majority of private and non-state board schools followed a wait-and-watch approach amid rise in Omicron cases. A few private schools have decided to reopen schools for Classes 1 to 7 after winter vacation. “Majority of parents want to wait till next month before deciding on sending children to school. Few others are also waiting for a decision on vaccination for children,” said the principal of a school in Chembur.
Sanjay Davre, chairman of the MahaMumbai Mukhyadhyapak Sanghatna, an organisation of school principals, told PTI: “There were some restrictions on gatherings in public places due to which schools are also cautiously looking at the developments. Also, some parents are uncomfortable in sending their children to schools because of concerns over Omicron.”
Under the Covid-19 protocol, all teaching and non-teaching staff need to be vaccinated with both doses. Other guidelines include parents’ consent for attendance, safety and hygiene, and appropriate teaching and seating arrangements in classrooms among others.
The BMC has mandated that management of schools should link their schools with the nearest primary health centres before restarting classes to better deal with health emergencies among students and staff.
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