Asked about the concerns of a possible third wave, the Education Minister said, "If the situation turns bad, schools can always be asked to go back to online mode. It will depend on the situation".
After 19 months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, schools in the national capital will reopen from November 1 for all classes with 50 percent student strength, though classes will continue in the hybrid mode and no student will be forced to attend them offline.
All other educational institutions will also reopen from Monday, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said, announcing the decision taken at a meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), and noted that the COVID-19 situation is under control in Delhi but “we cannot let our guard down”.
The Delhi government had earlier announced the reopening of schools for classes 9 to 12, colleges and coaching institutions from September 1 following a marked improvement in the COVID-19 situation in the national capital.
However, this is the first time that schools will reopen for classes up to class 8 after the outbreak of the epidemic.
Sisodia said that due to school closure there has been an unprecedented loss of learning for the children.
“This was also stated by experts in the DDMA meeting that making up for this loss will not be easy. Therefore, it has been decided that all schools should be reopened for all classes from November 1,” he said at a press conference.
He also said that the “COVID situation is under control but considering the situation in few countries at present and the upcoming festivals, there is need to be cautious and not let our guard down.” Sisodia, who is also Delhi’s Education Minister, said as an expert committee had recommended, no parent will be forced to send their wards to school and education will continue in blended or hybrid mode (both online and offline classes).
“Schools will have to ensure that not more than 50 percent of the students in a class should be called to schools and all the staff is required to be fully vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Schools will also be required to make sure that their teaching and non-teaching staff is get vaccinated,” he said.
Quoting the figures shared in the DDMA meeting, Sisodia said around 98 percent of the teaching and non-teaching staff has received at least the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Asked about the concerns of a possible third wave, the Education Minister said, “If the situation turns bad, schools can always be asked to go back to online mode. It will depend on the situation”.
Schools in the national capital were ordered to shut last year in March ahead of a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
While several states started partial reopening of schools in October last year, the Delhi government allowed physical classes only for classes 9-12 in January this year, which were again suspended following the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases during the aggressive second wave.
At a DDMA meeting on September 29, a panel tasked with chalking out a detailed plan and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for reopening schools had noted that there has been no reported instance of any increased local transmission of COVID-19 in Delhi due to the reopening of schools for Classes 9 to 12.
The panel had also suggested reopening schools from October 1 noting that the attendance of students from senior classes has increased up to 80 percent.
However, in line with the suggestions of experts, the DDMA decided not to reopen schools at that time in view of the upcoming festivals.
Allowing only 50 percent students per classroom, mandatory thermal screening, staggered lunch breaks, an alternate seating arrangement and avoiding routine guest visits were among the guidelines announced by the DDMA for the reopening of schools and colleges from September 1.