Even though Monday was supposed to be the day to mark the return of students to classrooms as schools across the city were supposed to finally open their doors to senior students, there was a bleak response to the call for reopening schools.
According to figures available with the local authorities, only 44 schools across the city started on Monday. Of the 529 schools in the city, 22 municipal schools and 22 private schools reopened on Monday, said Suresh Jagtap, additional commissioner of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).
“Until Sunday night, only 30 per cent parents had given consent to sending their children to school and even among private schools, only about 25 per cent had sent us the details of their precautionary measures and RT-PCR tests for teachers and staff. So, we granted permission to around 40 private schools, of which 22 opened today. Actually, there are a total of 16,000 teaching and non-teaching staff put together, whose tests are yet to be conducted. Since we need a report within the last one week and the number of laboratories are limited, there is some delay in getting the test reports and hence reopening is delayed,” said Jagtap.
He said 126 private schools were granted permission later on Monday to start classroom lessons, he said that within five days, the situation is expected to be streamlined.
Various factors — ranging from not receiving Covid-negative test reports of teachers to delayed permission from the local body, and a ‘wait-and-watch’ approach to see if the government changes its mind on reopening schools – prompted many schools to stay shut.
Anvit Pathak, director of Millenium School, Kothrud — which did not reopen on Monday — summed up the sentiment of most school authorities in the city. “We decided to reopen a couple of days later because twice earlier, the government had planned a reopening and then cancelled it. We wanted to be sure.”
Rajendra Singh, trustee of Priyadarshini Schools, echoed the sentiment. “We can’t reopen and then suddenly shut… once we start classes, we want to be sure and that’s why we are waiting till January 7,” he said.
Some schools and junior colleges complained of delays in inspections and permissions by local bodies, and cited them as reasons for not reopening on Monday.
At St Mira’s College, principal Gulshan Gidwani said that 15 students had come to campus. “We had sent the forms to the Education department but we didn’t receive its go-ahead to start classes. Since students started coming in, we had to seat them in classrooms. Thankfully, they were few in number. Teachers had informed students to wait for further instructions,” she said.
Despite receiving permission to reopen, several private schools in city remained shut. But in the few schools which actually reopened, while the number of students was low and caution prevailed, students were excited to return to classrooms.
Jayshree Venkatraman, principal of SNBP School, said that 12 students of Class X from a batch of 40 attended the first day of school. “We followed all precautions as per the SOP and while there was some concern given the situation, the excitement of returning to school was very high,” she said.
At Vishwakarma Vidyalaya in Bibvewadi, where one batch of Class XII, science division, started on Monday, Principal Sulabha Deshmukh said that 17 of the 30 students, whose parents had consented, came for their classes. “We received the permission at the last minute, so that’s why everything was done in a hurry, and maybe that’s why numbers were low. We had received the report of only one teacher, so we started with her class. After months today, there was some liveliness on campus and students were very happy to return for classes,” she said.