Pune: Schools shut till February 28; Revising academic calendars challenge for some, others say back-up plans ready

Till Saturday, three city schools had been shut down following reports of Covid-19 cases.

BARELY DAYS after colleges in Pune resumed classroom teaching for students after a gap of 11 months, the local district administration Sunday ordered all educational institutions to remain shut till February 28 in view of rising coronavirus infections drawing sharp reactions from school managements. While some rescheduling academic calendars was proving to be a challenge, others claimed they already had back-up plans in place.

The positivity rate in Pune district has gone up to 10 per cent. On Sunday, at least three class IX students of Delhi Public School, Mohammedwadi, were also tested positive for Covid-19 cases. Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Jagtap said the school’s premises and its buses have been sanitised while the local ward office has traced all the 16 students of the class.

Till Saturday, three city schools had been shut down following reports of Covid-19 cases.

However, after all city schools and colleges were ordered to be shut heads of several institutions said that switching to classroom teaching from online mode took weeks of preparation and the decision to resume offline lectures should have been better coordinated.

St Mira’s College principal Gulshan Gidwani said, “This kind of uncertainty is terrible for students. We reopened colleges on February 15 and it hasn’t even been a week. They should have intensified the vaccination drive and then opened up colleges.”

Another school principal said, “That’s why we were reluctant to start schools. As educationists, we can’t take such arbitrary decisions. Even after they announced the reopening date, we waited for a few more days and then started schools, because it is not just an inconvenience but leaves a huge psychological impact on students and staffers. Such haphazard planning makes us come across as clueless.”

Meera Nair, principal of Amanora School, said a five-to-six-day shutdown was not a solution. “We can’t have the authorities issuing knee-jerk reactions and directives to schools. There are rules for the teachers and staff to get tested before resuming school, but nothing for students. We had started, especially for the students whose performance was very poor, calling them in small batches. Practicals for class X students had also begun with staggered timing and in small groups. Exams schedules were shared with a request for all students of classes IX and X to write them offline. However, a good majority of parents were against the decision, and now, there’s this fresh order to shut down schools. This decision will only roll back all the groundwork initiated by the schools,” she said.

Some school and college managements, however, said they had back-up plans ready, in case of a repeat shutdown, and classes as well as exams would once again move online.

Praneet Mungali, trustee of Sanskriti School, said “There are two crucial pre-conditions for the safe functioning of schools in the current environment. Firstly, the level of circulation of the virus in the city should be below a certain threshold. Secondly, the schools will need to implement strict Covid-19 safety protocols.”

Mungali added, “Under the current situation in Pune, the positivity rate of the virus has doubled in the last fortnight. Plans need to be readjusted for the time being to ensure overall safety. We had already declared a precautionary one-week break Saturday, even though internally we have robust Covid-19 safety protocols. We had a back-up plan ready for such a scenario and they will be put in place to ensure that there is no loss of learning for any student.”

Rajendra Zunjarrao, principal, Modern College, said online lectures and practicals would re-start for students. “Since we are an autonomous institute, the academic council and governing body permissions can be sought to keep all exams online,” he said.

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