Mumbai: Schools in Maharashtra can start conducting more physical classes from 17 August provided the COVID-19 infection rate in the area is low, as per an order issued by the state government recently. The state task force on the COVID-19 pandemic has, however, advised against reopening schools offline. Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the task force, has said that there was evidence that schools and religious places were becoming 'super spreaders' of the viral infection.
Meanwhile, school Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad took to Twitter to emphasise the importance of following the standard operating procedure, laid down in the order, adding that the decision to send students to schools will be ultimately up to their parents.
Schools in areas where coronavirus cases are under control can restart physical classes for Std 5-12th in rural areas & 8-12th in urban areas from Aug 17. Safe resumption of schools is being considered to ensure all students have equal access to education amidst the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/iytFWsOJrB
— Varsha Gaikwad (@VarshaEGaikwad) August 10, 2021
As per the order —
- Physical classes for Classes 5 to 7 will be allowed in rural areas from August 17.
- Physical classes for Classes 8 to 12 are already being held in most rural areas.
- Physical classes for Classes 8 to 12 can resume in urban areas.
- The final decision on whether to permit physical classes will be taken by a committee headed by the respective municipal commissioner in urban areas and district collector in rural areas. Other members of the committee will be the ward officer, medical officer and education officer.
- The area where schools are to be reopened should have a very low COVID-19 prevalence for the last one month.
- The district collector should arrange for vaccination of teachers and other school staff against COVID-19.
- Parents should be barred from entering the school premises to avoid crowding.
- The number of students in a classroom can be around 15-20, seated six feet apart from each other.
- Schools to work in shifts or on alternate days.
- Priority should be given to the teaching of core subjects.
- If a student tests positive for the infection, the school should be closed and sanitised.
- School hours are to be limited to three-four hours per day.
- No cultural or sporting events requiring a gathering will be permitted in schools.
- Schools to provide isolation facilities and to tie up with local health departments for any emergency situation.
- If a student or a family member of the student falls ill, the student is advised to stay at home. It will be the responsibility of the school to ensure such a student’s learning gap is compensated by the school.
- Every school will have to formulate a safe transportation plan for the students.
The Maharashtra government's decision comes in the wake of several other states looking to open up schools as well. Meanwhile, as many as 20 children from two schools in Punjab’s Ludhiana have tested positive for COVID-19 within a week after schools reopened in the state. Schools in Punjab were reopened on 2 August.