Maharashtra: Task forces oppose school restart | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Maharashtra: Task forces oppose school restart

By, Mumbai
Aug 13, 2021 12:33 AM IST

On Thursday, school education minister Varsha Gaikwad said both task forces have their own suggestions on SOP, which they have received and a decision will be taken after deliberations.

The Maharashtra government is reconsidering its decision to reopen schools in the state from August 17 after the state Covid-19 task force of experts and paediatric task force strongly opposed the move over fears of infection among students, who are the unvaccinated class. Till Thursday evening, it was not clear whether the government would defer the decision or implement the same by bringing a stern standard operating procedure (SOP). This has led to confusion among both schools and parents.

Beneficiaries waiting in a queue to get inoculated against Covid-19 at a BMC School vaccination centre in Worli. (Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
Beneficiaries waiting in a queue to get inoculated against Covid-19 at a BMC School vaccination centre in Worli. (Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)

On Thursday, school education minister Varsha Gaikwad said both task forces have their own suggestions on SOP, which they have received and a decision will be taken after deliberations.

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“The task force wants to study the SOP prepared by us. They also had their own suggestions. We have shared the SOP with them and also received theirs today, which the additional chief secretary, school education department (Vandana Krishna) will study. In the next few days, we will again have a meeting with task force members to deliberate in detail,” Gaikwad told reporters on Thursday.

On August 10, the school education department ordered the reopening of physical classes in schools in urban areas from August 17. The offline classes have been allowed for classes 8 to 12 in the urban areas and for classes 5 to 7 in rural areas of the state. For Mumbai and Thane, it had empowered civic bodies of concerned cities to take a decision, considering the existing Covid-19 situation.

The order specifies a standard operating procedure (SOP) for schools, in which the school education department has asked the school managements to follow certain rules pertaining to seating arrangements and maintaining social distancing and Covid-19 protocols in the schools.

A day after a government resolution (GR) was issued, allowing schools and junior colleges to reopen from August 17, the state cabinet discussed the move and it was also decided to revisit the decision. Later, chief secretary Sitaram Kunte held a meeting with officials from the health department, school education department and the members of both task forces on the matter.

State health minister Rajesh Tope on Wednesday said, “Both task forces, unanimously, opposed the move in the backdrop of the rise in cases elsewhere in the country where schools were opened. Secondly, the students are not vaccinated, leaving a high risk of them getting infected. This has necessitated revisiting the decision of reopening of schools and colleges.”

Tope said that the decision over the opening of the senior colleges will be taken after reports from district-level education societies and the universities are submitted to the government in the next few days. When asked if the likely deferment of the decision of reopening of schools is the result of lack of coordination within government, Tope said, “Different departments have the right to have different opinions. The school education department, however, does not appear to have taken the opinion of the task forces into account while issuing the GR.”

Physical classes in schools were shut in Maharashtra from March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the state. Schools in rural areas were already allowed to resume physical classes for class 8 to 12 students from July 12. Nearly 5,947 schools resumed offline classes in rural areas where Covid-19 cases are on a decline.

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