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3 days before reopening, BMC shuts all schools in Mumbai till December 31

Schools and junior colleges were earlier scheduled to reopen for students from classes IX to XII on November 23. (Representational)

Anticipating a second wave of Covid-19 infections in Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Friday announced that all schools in the city will remain shut till December 31. Schools will be shut till the end of the year in neighbouring Thane as well.

Schools and junior colleges were earlier scheduled to reopen for students from classes IX to XII on November 23.

The BMC said that in the meantime, it will prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for functioning of schools and other crucial things like Covid-19 testing of teachers and sanitising the premises.

On November 6, the Maharashtra government had announced that it was planning to reopen schools in the state for students from classes IX to XII on November 23. Several schools in the city, including private and those run by the government, had started preparations to resume classes from Monday.

The BMC’s education department on Friday, however, issued a circular announcing that schools within the civic body’s jurisdiction will not reopen till December 31. The order will be applicable for government, private and BMC-run schools.

The circular added that taking note of second wave of Covid-19 infection in other parts of the country, the municipal commissioner has decided to shut all schools till the end of the year as a precautionary measure.

“The next four to six weeks are very crucial, as the festival season continues. Now, we are expecting an increase in the number of infections. So, this step is being taken to ensure that the spread for Covid-19 is curbed,” said a BMC official.

“With more than a month in hand, the civic body can prepare a SOP, test all teachers and sanitise all school buildings before they reopen,” the official added.

Mayor Kishori Pednekar said that since many schools were used as Covid-19 quarantine centres, they need to be properly sanitised before they reopen for students. Currently, in many schools, the civic body has started mass testing for school staffers.

However, the BMC said that supplementary board exams for classes X and XII students will be held as per the time table released by the state board. Friday was the first day for the exams for the students of classes X and XII, which will continue till December 5 and December 10, respectively.

According to civic officials, Covid-19 testing will be increased from now on, as till December 15, number of cases are expected to rise. The BMC will also hold a door-to-door survey of its health workers under ‘My Family, My Responsibility’ for the next one more month. So far, civic health teams have screened 35 lakh residents.

The BMC’s decision, however, has confused students, said Prashant Redij, the secretary of Mumbai Principals’ Association. “Since the orders are meant only for students, what should the teachers do? If students do not come to schools, why should teachers maintain a 50 per cent attendance record? Considering the current situation, if school management committees do not require the physical presence of teachers, they should be allowed to work from home,” he added.

Speaking to mediapersons on Friday, School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad reiterated that the decision to reopen schools for senior classes will be taken by the local administration. “While reopening schools, the local administration can take the necessary precautions… Keeping in mind students’ health and academic welfare, district collectors and education officers should take a decision on whether schools should be reopened.”

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