Mumbai: Schools to be shut till December 31; parents welcome move

Updated: 21 November, 2020 08:38 IST | Dharmendra Jore, Pallavi Smart, Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

Alarmed by situation in Delhi and Gujarat and worried about a second wave of the pandemic, civic corporations in and around the city postpone reopening of schools much to the relief of parents and teachers

A municipal school being sanitised in Dadar East on Friday. Pic/Suresh Karkera
A municipal school being sanitised in Dadar East on Friday. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Considering the current status of the pandemic, schools in Mumbai will not open until December 31, the civic body said on Friday. The decision came soon after the state's school education department told local administrations to decide on the matter. State officials said feedback from ground zero and other states delaying the reopening amid rising cases drove the decision.

Also read: Mumbai: Want academic year, but we don't want to send kids to school, says parents

With the opposition to the state's plan of reopening schools for Std IX-XII at its peak, Mumbai's Mayor Kishori Pednekar announced, "All schools, private or public, will not reopen considering the safety of students. The municipal commissioner has conveyed the message to the education department."

Also read: Maharashtra: As D-Day looms, one school in each ward turns testing centre

Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said, "The number of cases is not much, but there is a possibility of a second wave. So it has been decided to close the schools till December 31 to reduce the risk to students and teachers. After that, schools may open with all the precautions."

Varsha Gaikwad, education minister, Aaditya Thackeray, environment minister and Prasad Tulaskar, a parent
Varsha Gaikwad, education minister, Aaditya Thackeray, environment minister and Prasad Tulaskar, a parent

The state education department too issued a statement saying that even though the state has approved reopening of schools from November 23, local authorities are free to take their own call.

"While declaring the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure), we had said that since the situation is different everywhere, it is better if local authorities take a final decision on the reopening of schools. Online schooling shall continue," said Varsha Gaikward, state's school education minister.

'Parents were united'

Parents were already questioning the reopening of schools amid the chances of a second wave and were unwilling to give written consent to send their children.

Corporator Urmila Panchal oversaw the sanitisation of a civic school in Dadar East on Friday. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Corporator Urmila Panchal oversaw the sanitisation of a civic school in Dadar East on Friday. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Although the schools had decided to continue with the status quo with there being no positive response from parents, the BMC's announcement eased their burden.

Prasad Tulaskar, a parent from Dadar, who had refused to send his son to school, said, "Today's decision is a victory for united parents. This puts the education department in an embarrassing position for making decisions without knowing the ground reality. The department should have consulted parents before declaring a reopening date for schools, especially when there is the fear of a second wave."

Parents have maintained the stand to not reopen schools until a vaccine is available. Parents also pointed to other states where cases increased after schools reopened.

"It would not have been possible to finish all tasks including sanitisation of schools, RT-PCR tests of all staffers, etc. It clearly looked like the reopening plan was continued due to the government's stubbornness," said Shivnath Darade from Maharashtra Rajya Shikshak Parishad which had written to the BMC regarding the situation on the ground.

Exclusive test centres for school staff were established on November 19 and 10,000 samples were collected amid which, the decision to halt the reopening came.

Feedback discouraged govt

Minister Aaditya Thackeray had reviewed the situation a couple of days ago and asked the BMC to ramp up the COVID-19 infrastructure to deal with a possible second COVID wave. "The rising cases in Delhi-NCR and the Gujarat government's decision to delay reopening of schools reaffirmed the State's assumption that infections will increase after Diwali. Schools, if reopened in such a situation, would have meant more trouble and more positive cases," said a government official.

Feedback received from ground zero indicated parents' unwillingness and concerns of teachers' associations and school managements amid a lack of resources and manpower to follow SOPs.

In many districts, school managements had to ask teachers and non-teaching staff to cancel Diwali vacations (which ended during Friday-Saturday) to prepare schools and get tested for COVID-19.

10k
No. of samples of school staff that were collected until Friday for RT-PCR tests

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First Published: 21 November, 2020 07:00 IST

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