Schools closed till December 31: Thane teachers throng Covid-19 testing centres amid confusion over decision

Thane district collector Rajesh Narvekar late on Friday evening announced that schools in the district will remain closed till December 31.

“We had a meeting with Thane guardian minister Eknath Shinde and decided that although the Covid-19 situation in the district is under control, there are chances of a second wave. So keeping the safety of children in mind, we have decided that all schools will remain closed till December 31,” said Narvekar.

The development came following confusion over the reopening of schools in Thane district prevailed throughout the day on Friday, as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had announced to not reopen schools this month in the morning. As confusion prevailed over the reopening of schools in Thane, teachers thronged the Covid-19 testing centres, leading to overcrowding at the facilities.

The Covid-19 testing centres at Vasant Valley in Kalyan witnessed a huge crowd and teachers complained of mismanagement at the facilities, which led to delay in testing of most of the teachers who waited for long hours in the queue.

Rajaram Patil a teacher of Sharda Vidyamandir Kalyan and president of Maharashtra Rajya Shikshak Parishad, said, “There was complete chaos at the centre as there was no proper management by KDMC (Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation). Several teachers who waited in the queue for the testing on Thursday had to come on Friday again as their testing was not done the previous day. There were several arguments between the teachers and the staff.”

KDMC epidemic officer Dr Pratibha Panpatil said, “We have set up five testing centres in Kalyan and made proper arrangement at all the centres for the testing with whatever manpower we have.”

Overcrowding was also observed in rural areas of the district.

Sudhir Ghagas, president, Maharashtra Shikshan Kranti Sanghatna, said, “We received an official statement on November 17 about mandatory tests to be conducted for all teachers before schools reopened. It was difficult to complete the procedure within a week, that too before the weekend. This led to teachers gathering outside testing centres and forming long queues to get themselves tested. In Shahapur, there are fewer testing centres but many teachers.

Teachers were worried that overcrowding at the testing centres could lead to spread of the virus. “The staff at the centre I visited in Thane asked me to provide a doctor’s prescription for the test. I had to explain to them that the government made it compulsory for teachers to get tested. As the testing centres were not aware of this rule, it added to the confusion. As we had limited time, it was difficult to get a doctor’s prescription first and then approach the testing centre ,” said Kalyani Karmarkar, a teacher of a civic school in Thane.

Meanwhile, Raigad collector Nidhi Choudhary has announced that schools can continue to function if parents give a confirmation to send their children to school. However, Panvel City Municipal Corporation (PCMC), which falls under Raigad district, has postponed reopening of schools until December 31.

“If parents give consent and the RT-PCR reports of all teachers come negative, the schools can reopen from Monday . But, PCMC schools will remain closed for some more weeks as there are concerns of a second Covid-19 wave,” said Choudhary.

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