Your space: Reopening of schools with fully vaccinated staff
Even as all teaching and non-teaching staff of civic schools are fully vaccinated, the vax count at private schools in the city is a poor 50 per cent. With authorities planning to reopen schools, readers suggest steps that should be taken to ensure all staff at private schools are fully vaccinated
Reopen schools only for fully vaccinated staff
Public schools lead their private counterparts in terms of Covid-19 inoculation among teaching and non-teaching staff members, data from Pune district administration shows. There are 56,189 intended beneficiaries from the public and private schools which includes teaching and non-teaching staff members. In public schools, there are 22,125 teachers and 6,476 non-teaching staff members who have been identified by the administration for vaccination. In private schools, there are 22,406 teachers and 5,181 non-teaching staff members who are being targeted for fast-track vaccination. However, vaccination is moving at a slow pace and schools must not be allowed to reopen as it can prove dangerous for kids.
Dr Sameer Rajvanshi
Govt took decision on an impulse
Parent groups have been actively opposing the idea of physical classes, where Covid-19 numbers are still being recorded. Even if schools divide their batches into smaller groups and spread them across different classrooms, how will the teacher manage to teach all students? Before announcing a blanket decision, the state government should first try pilot batches and understand how physical schools could pose difficulties to schools as well as students. Who will be responsible if one or more students contract the virus? The state government has taken the decision on an impulse without even discussing the same with school-heads.
With vax count low, do not resume offline school in hurry
As the state is poised to take a decision in the next few days on reopening schools in the state, the government has stressed vaccinating teachers and non-teaching staff must be prioritised among other things. Bachchu Kadu, Maharashtra minister of state for school education, has said that the decision on reopening schools would be taken in the next few days. Schools have restarted in other states of the country and should be resumed in the state as well. But the decision will have to be taken carefully considering the fact that Maharashtra has the highest number of active cases after Kerala. Physical classes in schools were shut in Maharashtra in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the state. Schools in rural areas were allowed to resume physical classes for Class 8 to 12 students on July 12, but only in areas where Covid-19 cases are minimal. The rate of vaccination is very slow, so there should not be any hurry in reopening of the school.
Reopen schools under Covid norms
The health task force has discussed the plan with the state school education department officials to reopen schools in the state and wants to ensure schools are fully prepared and physical classes will not lead to a spike in Covid-19 cases. We also want the schools to be reopened but with certain precautions as we are concerned about their health. Children are definitely suffering from mental health issues and nutrition and thus schools should be reopened but in a safe environment. Currently vaccination of teachers and non-teaching staff is going on so the schools must reopen from next June. The task force has recommended that teaching and non-teaching staff of schools should be vaccinated and there must be proper seating arrangements in classes and one bench should be reserved for one student only. If possible, schools with online teaching infrastructure can simultaneously hold physical as well as online classes. Students can attend in-person classes by rotation. Classes must be sanitised and there must be a monitoring system in place in all schools. The school staff should also be trained to deal in case of a medical emergency
Reopen schools after parents’ consent
Schools should divide students into two batches and they should be called for physical classes on alternate days. Sports activities, which require close contact, should be avoided. Schools can also be started in a staggered manner by allowing some classes now and increasing them later based on the situation and if in case any Covid case is reported they can be stopped immediately. Dr Bakul Parekh, a member of the paediatric task force, said vehicles ferrying schoolchildren should not have closed windows and they should have sufficient ventilation. The government has suggested the school administration hold parent-teacher meetings before reopening schools. At these meetings, parents should be apprised about precautions schools will be taking for the safety of students.
Many teachers got the jab as frontline workers
It would take more than a few months to get all teachers and non-teaching staff vaccinated. The central government had set September 5 as the deadline to get teachers and non-teaching staff vaccinated, but that has not happened. A sizable number of teachers in the city has already gained from the priority vaccination in the frontline workers’ category during the initial roll-out of the immunisation programme. Teachers were deployed for contact tracing work and other field duties along with health workers to contain the spread of the virus. Hence, most have got their first dose under the frontline workers category. So, we don’t see there is any further problem in reopening of schools.