Amid a massive spike in COVID-19 cases in the financial capital, the Mumbai civic body on Monday decided to shut schools of all mediums for classes 1 to 9 and 11 till January 31, a civic official said. BMC Education Officer, Rajesh Kankal issued an official circular on Monday following Chahal's decision.
The official circular also reads, "Because board examinations are approaching, classes 1-9 and 11 will be closed, but classes 10th and 12th will be able to attend classes in person. However, classes for students of 1 to 9 and 11 will continue in online mode, as directed earlier.
Chahal, on Monday, said that amid the surge in Covid cases in Mumbai, the decision to restart physical schools for students has been postponed to January 31, 2022.
Schools in Mumbai were set to resume from January 3, following the Christmas break. After the decision by the BMC Department schools in Mumbai are getting back to online schooling and hoping offline schools resume soon.
Dr. Kavita Nagpal, Principal, Orchids- The International school said, "We were all excited to see our younger children back to school, but better safe than sorry. The sudden surge in the Covid cases made us take the decision to defer the reopening as we feel it's important to take care of all our stakeholders rather than take decisions hastily. So with a heavy heart, we have to again go back to online mode tomorrow onwards but we are hopeful the situation will soon change again and we will resume normal classes."
Some schools were also planning to wait and monitor the situation for a week before resuming classes but the decision to shut the schools again and parents' concern over sending their kids have stopped schools from resuming in Mumbai. Ms Jane Kotian, Principal of Bombay Scottish said, "We were prepared for all grades from 1 to 10, but with the new wave, parents' response of sensing their children has been lukewarm."
Due to Omicron's uncertainty, several schools had already decided to function in a hybrid mode until the problem was resolved. Malad's Billabong High International Principal, Dr Madhu Singh, said, "Our school started classes 6th through 8th in a hybrid format today, and grades 9th through 12th in an offline manner. A considerable number of our parents have agreed to the commencement of school."
"Children up to grade 5 are continuing in an online mode," stated Jyotsana Mayadas, Principal of EuroSchool, Thane. " Grades 6-7 are operating in hybrid mode, while classes 8 and above are functioning in offline mode. The fair amount of consent forms for hybrid and offline schools has led us to reopen school again and welcome back our students," she added.
Parents, on the other hand, were relieved by the decision that schools are not reopening in an offline mode. A parent of a second-grade student, Neha Dasoriya, said, "Actually for us, there is no difference. We were not planning to send our daughter to school this year. We are waiting for the next session to start."
Another Parent from EuroSchool Airoli, Vishal Nagda said, "It is the correct decision in view of the safety of our children. Schools have already invested and perfected the Online Schooling model. So, it is best that this entire academic year be concluded online and a decision on offline school be taken in June before the next term starts. Until that time, vaccination for kids may also get approved to enhance their safety."
Radhika Nihalani, a parent from Parent Association Mumbai was upset by the decision. “It’s really disheartening that as always children in the city face the brunt of these knee-jerk reactions. World over with cases much higher than ours, schools are open because their governments give priority to education and to the mental and emotional well-being of their youngest and brightest minds."
She also added, "It’s also a known fact now that children are either with minimal symptoms or are asymptomatic, which makes one think on what scientific basis these decisions are made. More so, why are spaces like marketplaces, restaurants, bars open and thriving where the potential of a spread is so high as compared to a controlled school environment.”
Despite an increase in the number of Omicron cases, there were few schools in Mumbai which resumed on January 3 and saw a good percentage of students. Mrs Archana Birajpar, VPM Kannada High School and Junior College, Mulund said, "Our school has resumed today with around 50% attendance in classes 1 to 4 and around 80% in Secondary and Higher Secondary section. With 80% of Parents' consent for offline classes enabled us to move ahead with confidence."
BMC os targetting to vaccinate all the 4.5 lakh children between the age group of 15 to 18 by the end of January. With the city reporting cases in thousands for past few days and over 8000 cases for two days in a row, in a span of two weeks, the positivity rate in Mumbai has jumped from 1% to 17%.
"We still have 90% hospital beds vacant and the percentage of asymptomatic patients is 91%. We are well prepared and well equipped this time with more beds and jumbo centres in place," Chahal said.
Chahal also said that the civic body is estimating that this wave to peak and start slowing down in another four weeks. A call on more restrictions will be taken at the next meeting, due to be held on January 10.