The figures released by the state showed that 5,947 schools in 25 of the 35 districts reopened on Thursday. Kolhapur saw the maximum attendance with 1,55,784 students in 940 schools on Thursday. In Nanded, 51,115 students attended 384 schools. Yavatmal saw 27,610 students in 502 schools. In Aurangabad, 631 schools welcomed 21,599 students. In Pune, 90 schools opened their gates to 3,505 students.
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The state had issued a GR on July 7, directing COVID free villages to start the offline academic year 2021-22 from July 15 for class VIII to XII. A seven-member committee comprising the village sarpanch, health officer, revenue officer, school authorities were to decide on reopening schools. Parents consent was must.
Villages in the MMR that have been COVID free for over a month were reluctant to reopen physical schools as parents’ approval to send their children was not forthcoming. A survey conducted by the State Council of Educational Research and Training early this week had over 81 percent of parents agreeing to send their children to offline schools.
State data showed that none of the 2,150 schools in Thane district could have physical classes. Villages have to be COVID free for a month to start offline schools.
The differences of opinions among education ministers added to the confusion, said village heads. While state education minister Varsha Gaikwad of the Congress gave the nod to reopen classes VIII to XII, higher education minister Uday Samant of the Shiv Sena was against reopening degree colleges. State health minister Rajesh Tope of the NCP too said that schools will open only after colleges.
Sarpanchs of COVID free villages were not willing to give the no-objection certificate to start physical classes. “Parents want us to guarantee that their children will not get COVID. So the decision on schools reopening is pending,” said the sarpanch of a village in Kasa. Last November, when schools for higher classes reopened, several tribal students had tested positive for COVID19. Schools for higher classes in Thane, Palghar, Navi Mumbai had opened last year from November to March. In Mumbai, all schools were shut last year.
Schools in rural areas have to follow standard operating procedures, including one student per bench, masks, social distancing, 15-20 students a class, not more than three to four hours of school daily.