As the threat of the pandemic is increasing day by day, heads of top institutions across the country assert the chances of schools reopening before October is less than 50 per cent.
Considering the current situation, several discussions were made regarding academic activities by top educationists representing PSBB, DAV and Modern.
The panel members came to several conclusions, including that if schools reopen during monsoons, things could go out of control, physical distancing will be a nightmare at schools, grades moratorium should be considered, syllabus reduced for the year and about 85 per cent of students’ fee goes towards teachers' salaries and therefore, reduction in fee will be challenging.
Accordingly, Dr Sheela Rajendra, Dean and Director, PSBB, Chennai, said, “I think it will be somewhere between 50 and 20 per cent (chance of reopening by October) and that too not for the whole school for sure. If it comes to safety vis a vis physical schooling, I think safety will take priority even if it means not having school till December, January or the whole academic year.”
With masks and physical distancing cited as the key elements for reopening, the challenges are only likely to mount for school managements," she added.
Stating that it was going to be very difficult for children to maintain physical distancing, she said, "Even bringing back 10 per cent of the children means over 300 kids for each school."
She said the situation will be even more difficult for preschoolers, which is why many preschools are struggling to stay afloat.
Adding to it, Alka Kapur, Principal, Modern Public School, Delhi said, "All stakeholders are averse to opening the schools till the curve flattens or till there is a vaccine. The government will have to come out with a uniform policy with specific guidelines, SOPs and safety protocols of health and hygiene before schools reopen. These norms will have to be followed by every school.”
Similarly, Simmi Kalsi, Senior Teaching Professional, DAV, Mumbai, said matters are only likely to get worse during the monsoons, which are on pace to last till mid-October, going by the trends in recent years. "Monsoons are a big thing in a city. We are often affected by torrential rains. We need to keep that in mind as well. We all need to cautiously wait and see how it all shapes out. At the moment, it is only about going with the drift and staying afloat".
The panel also opined that with most schools resorting to online classes, there is a growing debate whether this is a hurried stop-gap arrangement. Early pointers suggest challenges are outpacing the benefits. Inclusivity remains the key deterrent when it comes to online classes. While school managements are keen to get moving with online classes to keep pace with the demands of the syllabus, the fact that hardly 30 per cent of children have access to online learning only adds to the woes of the current situation.