The state government has put on hold its own decision to reopen schools in Maharashtra from August 17, amid the spread of Covid Delta-plus variant and the possibility of the third wave hitting the state. A government resolution (GR) spelling out the SOPs for reopening the schools for Classes 5 to 7 in rural areas and for Classes 8 to 12 in the urban areas was issued on Tuesday. However, the state government’s taskforce on paediatrics, headed by Dr Suhas Prabhu, strongly recommended that the reopening of schools be pushed back by a month or even further.
The Free Press Journal was the first to report on the taskforce recommendations for schools on Tuesday, when it reported that the state taskforce on Covid, chaired by Dr Sanjay Oak, wanted the government to consider reopening of schools only after Diwali (in November). This newspaper is in possession of the report of the state taskforce for paediatrics on the reopening of schools. The report says: “While we need to see that a child's education and mental health does not suffer, we have to take precautions and prevent hasty reopening of schools to stop the third wave from worsening. We are conscious of the effects and problems created by the prolonged closure of schools (but) with the third wave likely in a next month or so, it would not be wise to reopen schools right away.”
The taskforce further recommended that the government may consider reopening schools on a pilot basis in districts with no fresh growth in Covid cases. Some of these districts are Nandurbar, Dhule, Yavatmal, Nagpur, Wardha, Bhandara, Gondia and Akola. “We are dismayed to see some media reports that have announced the reopening of schools soon, and suggest caution before going ahead with this plan. Authorities such as the BMC commissioner are also rightly concerned about fuelling the third wave by this hasty measure,” the taskforce report said.
According to the taskforce, it had indeed issued detailed SOPs to the school education department to reopen schools. “However, it is not clear whether these measures have been properly communicated to all schools in the private and public sectors. Although it might have been done, it will take time, maybe a month or even more, before the measures such as maintaining physical distance between the students in the classrooms, redesigning the schools to ensure ventilation, measures to check children at entry point, and training of staff and educating parents regarding the safety measures can be reliably and consistently implemented,” the report said.