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Pune: Schools across city prepare to reopen for higher classes tomorrow

As January 4, the date set by local authorities for reopening of schools in Pune, approaches, many schools across the city are grappling with the challenges of reopening amid a pandemic.

While sanitisation measures have been stepped up and physical distancing norms are being worked out, school authorities are worried about the distribution of workforce and online-offline distribution of students because only some parents have agreed to send pupils to school.

Anvit Pathak, director of Millenium School, said only the parents of 300 students from Classes IX to XII, out of a total strength of more than 500, have filled out the online consent forms.

“I think it’s going to be a dynamic situation with the numbers fluctuating week by week. So, we have decided to start classes from IX to XII for three hours a day on alternate days. We will begin with class XII, then X, then class X1 and then IX, sequentially, with a little gap in-between for students and staff to adjust processes. There will be a sizeable number of students who will opt for online classes and we have to account for that as well. Since our staff is limited for online and offline classes, we have to work out the odds,” he said.

But some schools have been preparing parents for a while now. “Since March, we have held regular meeting with PTA representatives. We had decided that once the government gives the go-ahead, depending on the health situation, we will take a call. To alleviate fears of parents regarding sanitary measures, we sent them a small video about the safety measures in place during transport and at school. After that, 90 per cent of parents sent in positive consent forms. So, we have decided to begin classes for XII as 30 per cent of their marks depends on practical assessment and we can’t prepare them for it online,” said Praneet Mungali, trustee, Sanskriti School.

But even as schools and junior colleges have taken a slew of measures, including staff training, social distancing signs, sanitisation mesaures, preparing a rota of teachers and students to manage alternate day classroom lectures, many concerns remain.

Dr Gulshan Gidwani, principal, St Mira’s College, pointed out to problems beyond classroom lectures once students are on campus.

“Our junior college strength is 120 students per class, so we have decided to allow 40 students at a time per classroom. Even if that happens, there will be more than 500 students on campus. It takes two minutes per student to check temperature, sanitise and make entry in logbook. We have assigned six staffers specially for this and created six different spots at entry point, but even then, each staff will spend 2 hours in just this exercise every day. Also, our teaching staff is limited. Managing the academic schedule so that only one third of students come in at a time as well as completing syllabus is going to be challenging,” she said.

One of the solutions is to keep online classes on while the offline class is being conducted, said educationists.

Dr Aanieetaa Vaissnava, principal of Orchids The International School in Nigdi, which is reopening for IX and X, said, “While we are following all protocols mentioned by the government, such as temperature checks and sanitisation, we have installed glass shields on every desk and labelled them, so each student will sit at his or her designated desk. We have also modified our water taps to foot taps, so that students won’t touch the taps with their hands, reducing the risk of contamination. Signboards and arrows have been installed to ensure discipline is maintained in terms of physical distancing.”

However, many schools said they won’t be reopening at all.

“A majority of parents have not given consent and that’s why as of now, school is not reopening. Currently, school vacations are ongoing, maybe after that if consent comes in, school may reopen,” said Markus Deshmukh, a spokesperson of Bishops School.

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