Mumbai: Bracing for the possibility of a second corona wave and the accompanying spike in cases, on Friday, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation decided that schools and colleges would remain shut till December 31 and would not reopen from November 23, as had been announced earlier. According to a circular issued by BMC Education Officer Mahesh Palkar, the decision was made as there were special issues to take care of in the next four to six weeks, in view of a possible second wave in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra.
A few hours later, State Education Supervisor (Western Region) Anil Sable also issued a circular in support of the BMC’s decision.
The BMC’s decision was confirmed by Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar, who said it was taken in the larger interest of the students, teachers and non-teaching staff. “The decision has been taken in the wake of rise in Covid-19 cases in Mumbai. Schools will not re-open on November 23,’’ she added.
Schools in Thane district too will remain closed till December 31 in view of the coronavirus situation, Collector Rajesh Narvekar said on Friday. Though the pandemic is under control in the district, there are fears of a second wave, so the reopening of schools has been deferred, officials said.
Mumbai had 2,73,480 progressive Covid-19 cases, with 1,031 new cases in the city being reported on Friday. So far, 2,50,456 patients have been discharged, with 9,046 active patients and 10,637 deaths as on date. The decision announced on Friday coincides with the number of tests in the state crossing the one-crore mark, with a recovery rate of 93 per cent.
However, the BMC has said the board re-examinations for Classes 10 and 12 would take place as scheduled.
Minister of School Education Varsha Gaikwad told The Free Press Journal, “The decision was taken by the civic administration. The local administration will have to decide with regard to the reopening of schools for Classes 9 to12. While reopening schools in corona-affected districts, collectors, group development officers and education officers will decide, keeping in mind the health and educational interests of the students.’’ She further saidm the government had already issued SOPs for reopening schools and it had been decided that the teachers would undergo RT-PCR tests between November 17 and November 22, 2020.
Meanwhile, after nearly eight months, schools and junior colleges are set to reopen in Pune district from November 23.
Classes 9 and 10 in schools and Classes 11 and 12 of junior colleges will start from Monday.
The district administration and the Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad municipal corporations issued guidelines for the safey of students and teachers on Friday evening.
The district administration also asked school managements to take prior consent of parents.
"Schools will have to provide thermal scanners/guns, pulse oximeters, handwash soaps and ensure that school premises and classrooms are cleaned with disinfectants," said the guidelines.
Only one student will sit on each bench, and it is mandatory for all the teachers and non-teaching staff to undergo Covid testing.
Dr Milind Naik, Principal, Jnana Prabodhini Prashala, said that all safety protocols were being followed before the school reopened.
"There will be a total of 160 students of class 9 and class 10 and they will be coming to school only for practicals and co-curricular activities, between 4 and 5.30pm," he said.
Curriculum activities will continue online as earlier.
"All our teachers have undergone Covid-19 tests and have all tested negative," said Naik.
But not all schools are going to reopen on Monday.
"Though we are prepared to implement international-standard safety measures, we will not be starting classes on November 23. We first need to overrule the possibility of any spike in infections in the city, post-Diwali," said Praneet Mungali, a trustee at the Sanskriti Group of Schools.
"We will have a detailed dialogue with all stakeholders including our students, parents to determine the next course of action by consensus," he said.
Prasad Joshi, a parent, is cautious about sending his daughter, who is in Standard 9, to school.
"I have got a consent form from the school. They have sought my consent to send the ward to school. But the school should take parents into confidence and inform us about the measures they have taken for the safety of students," he said.
Pune district collector Rajesh Deshmukh said there were over 18,000 teachers of Classes 9-12 in the district.
"So far over 3,000 teachers have undergone Covid tests," he said.