Published: 01st September 2021
Schools in Delhi reopen amid strict COVID-19 safety guidelines
There are about seven lakh students in government schools from Classes IX to XII, but owing to Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) guidelines, 50 per cent students per classroom are allowed
Wearing masks and carrying umbrellas as heavy rains lashed Delhi, students of Classes IX-XII returned to schools after they reopened on Wednesday following a long hiatus due to COVID-19. Some institutions, however, chose to adopt a wait-and-watch approach and have decided to call children for physical classroom studies only after a few weeks.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tweeted: "After 17 months schools have reopened and students will again sit and study in classrooms and have fun with their friends. And yes, children have come to schools despite rains and it is obvious they were waiting eagerly for the schools to reopen," he said, adding that he looks forward to meeting students.
Following a marked improvement in the COVID situation in the national capital, the Delhi government on Friday had announced that schools for Classes IX to XII, colleges and coaching institutions would reopen from September 1.
Government schools operate in two shifts—morning and evening. Head the Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Vasundhara Enclave, Usha Rajput, said, "We were completely ready to reopen. We sanitised the campus and our staff has been vaccinated. Students were extremely happy to be back in school. Now all their queries and doubts can be addressed promptly. Students were also missing school. The third wave is a concern but we are hopeful that if all precautions are taken, we will be able to function smoothly," she said.
At a government school in Mayur Vihar, teachers had decorated the entrance with Rangoli and performed a welcome dance for students. Rupa, a teacher at a government school in Tilak Nagar said, "There was less turnout due to rains. But we are expecting more students from tomorrow."
"Students have to bring a non-objection certificate daily from their parents. They were excited to come to school after such a long time," she said. The Delhi government has said that no student would be forced to attend physical classes and consent of parents is mandatory. Mridu Gupta, a physics teacher at a government school in Brahmpuri, said that science students were not able to attend practical classes as schools were closed.
"With the resumption of physical classes, we will be able to start practical work. But today there were lesser number of students due to the morning rainfall," Gupta said. Besides 50 per cent students per classroom, the DDMA has also notified other safety guidelines for reopening schools such as mandatory thermal screening, staggered lunch breaks, alternate seating arrangement and avoiding routine guest visits.
The DDMA has said students, teachers and non-teaching staff living in COVID containment zones will not be allowed to come to schools and colleges. A student at an east Delhi government school said, "I am excited on meeting my friends" and added that with COVID-19 still around, everybody has to take precautions.
"This is the new normal and we will have to adjust," the student said. Ayushka Gupta, a student of Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya in west Delhi, said that only one student was allowed to sit on one bench, unlike earlier when two students would sit together.
"With this kind of seating arrangement, we could not interact much with our friends. Also, today the focus was more on studies," she said.
A government school student from Dwarka said physical classes are better than online classes. "There is of course a fear of the virus but I hope that we can follow the appropriate norms and keep the virus at bay," the student said.
Rimpy, who goes by her first name, said many of her friends could not make it to school due to heavy rainfall and that she was looking forward to meeting them in the next few days. "Teachers did not allow us to interact much with our classmates owing to the fear of Coronavirus. We plan to catch up after the school gets over," she said.
Mount Carmel School in Dwarka does not plan to reopen for at least a month as its entire staff is not completely vaccinated, and has decided to continue with online learning. "We are not prepared to open our school right now. They haven't started vaccinating children and all my staff is not vaccinated. We are still in the middle of a pandemic. We are not going to take a chance," Dean, Mount Carmel School, Michael Williams, said.
"It is being said that Zydus-Cadila has launched its vaccine for 12 to 18 year olds. I think it is much smarter to wait for another two months. We have waited for long and we can wait some more," he added.
Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh, reopened on Wednesday, but it is not providing buses for students as a precaution against COVID-19. While the government has noted that vaccination centres and activities like ration distribution which were going on in different schools will continue, the DDMA said the area being used for these activities should be separated from the area which will be used for academic activities.