Offline classes to resume in Maharashtra from Aug 17

Maharashtra became the latest state to announce the reopening of physical classes as state education minister Varsha Gaikwad said Friday schools in both rural and urban areas will reopen from August 17. Schools across the state have been closed since March last year when the coronavirus pandemic hit with classes being held online.

“Offline classes will commence in rural areas for students from classes 5 to 8, while those in cities will be for students from classes 8 to 12 following Covid-19 protocols,” Gaikwad said. On-campus classes, however, will be allowed only in the areas where Covid-19 infections are consistently low, the minister added.

A detailed order on the reopening of these schools is expected to be issued by the education department soon.

On Friday, the state reported 5,539 new Covid-19 cases and 187 fatalities, taking the infection tally to 63.41 lakh and the toll to 1,33,717, state health department data stated.

Gaikwad’s announcement comes on a day when two other states, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, also laid out plans for resuming on-campus classes. In Karnataka, schools will reopen for students from classes 9-12 from August 23, while in Tamil Nadu offline classes will begin from September 1. Recently, schools in several other states, including Punjab, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, reopened after being closed due to the pandemic.

Currently, Maharashtra has 19,997 secondary and higher secondary schools with over 45 lakh students in classes 8 to 12. In July, the Maharashtra government had decided to reopen schools in areas where no Covid-19 cases have been reported over a months’ period. Subsequently, from July 12, as many as 5,947 schools in rural areas resumed on-campus classes for students of classes 8 to 12.

The state had then listed out various guidelines, including allowing only a maximum of 15 to 20 students in a classroom at once with schools requiring to ensure there is a distance of at least six feet between two students. It had made the use of masks compulsory and directed that students would have to wash their hands frequently.

Earlier this week, state Higher and Technical Education Minister Uday Samant had said that the state government was trying to draw up a plan for reopening colleges for in-person classes. Samant said he has asked senior officials from his department to conduct a meeting with district collectors, disaster management authorities and vice-chancellors and prepare a plan for reopening colleges in physical mode.

“I have received several requests from students and parents in this regard. We are going to try and start physical classes for this academic year. I have asked the two directors of higher education and technical education to hold meetings with district collectors, disaster management authorities and vice-chancellors. Since a university has a large area with several districts under it, and the Covid-19 situation in every district is different, we need to chalk out a plan for the reopening of colleges, depending on the situation on the ground. The report will be presented to me in a few days, after which we will make a decision… however, our efforts are to start colleges in a physical mode for the current academic year,” Samant said Wednesday.

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