To reopen schools or not, even for senior students — Class IX to Class XII — is the big question states are grappling with. While Maharashtra Friday said it was considering starting physical classes in schools from November 23, Odisha put on hold an earlier decision to reopen schools after November 15, and Gujarat said it was preparing an SOP for physical classes in senior classes from November 18.
At least two states, Uttarakhand and Andhra Pradesh, reported Covid cases among teachers and students after schools reopened, raising fresh concerns among parents and administrators. In Uttarakhand, where classes for Class X and Class XII re-commenced this Monday, over 80 teachers in 20 government schools in Pauri Garhwal district tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The administration Friday closed the schools in Pauri Garhwal district’s four affected blocks for five days and ordered contact-tracing to check if the infection had spread among students who attended classes taken by the teachers who tested positive.
In Andhra Pradesh where schools reopened on November 2, about 600 students and 830 teachers tested Covid positive in the last four days. The state, however, plans to continue the classes, Education Minister Audimulapu Suresh said. “Students and teachers who showed Covid symptoms were sent for testing and some tested positive in the last four days. It is not that they got infected in the schools. We are taking extreme precautions to keep the students and staff safe and classes will continue,’’ said Joint Director (Education) Pratap Reddy.
Commissioner of School Education V Chinna Veerabhadrudu said there was no need for alarm because out of over 5 lakh students attending schools, only 262 had tested positive as of November 4. Classes VI to VIII will begin from November 23, and for students of Class I-V, the school will start December 14. All higher education institutions including colleges and universities have also started functioning in the state.
Announcing November 23 as the tentative date for starting schools and junior colleges physically across the state for class IX to XII, Maharashtra School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad Friday said an SOP had been prepared. “Schools will begin to function only after consent from parents and in compliance with health and safety guidelines,” she said.
Gaikwad also said the exams of Class X and Class XII should be conducted in May 2021, instead of February or March. These exams in the normal course are held by the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) in February and March.
In Odisha, the administration revoked an earlier decision to reopen schools in November two days after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed concerns over a possible second wave of Covid in the state. The state projects the second wave between December 15 and January 15. Another reason that influenced the decision was the recent cases amongst students and teachers in Andhra Pradesh after reopening of schools, said an official.
Odisha School and Mass Education Minister Samir Ranjan Dash said the decision to reopen schools has been put on hold for the moment. “The Special Relief Commissioner had directed that higher secondary classes can reopen after November 15. Our department had started working on the SOPs. But now, it has been put on hold until an indefinite period of time. Reopening schools can be a threat to both the students as well as teachers,” Dash said.
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