Schools, colleges in West Bengal to reopen today

Schools will open for Class 9 and above; COVID-19 protocols will be strictly enforced

Schools and colleges in West Bengal are set to reopen on Tuesday — after a gap of close to two years forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time students attended classes physically was in March 2020.

“All arrangements are being made for keeping the campuses clean and sanitised. Effective steps have been taken for ensuring double vaccination for most students. Public health imperatives are paramount,” said University of Calcutta Vice-Chancellor Sonali Chakravarti Banerjee.

In all institutions across the State, the arrangements are going to be the same: no mask, no entry; temperature checks and hand-sanitisation at the entrance; smaller number of students in each class; and no congregation in places like canteens. Challenges are going to be many, considering that the closure was extraordinarily prolonged and that COVID-19 is far from gone. Schools will open for students of Class 9 and above.

Bringing back students

“The challenge for schools, more so the Government-run ones, is about how the students respond to the reopening — whether they throng back or have got out of the habit due to the long closure,” said Krishnakoli Ray, headmistress of Dhakuria Sree Ramakrishna Vidyapith for Girls in Kolkata. “While students in upscale English-medium schools are likely to get back in full force, I fear many in Government schools, both in urban and rural areas, may have dropped out. Only time will tell whether they can be brought back to the system.

“The onus to keep students safe is on the schools. We have cleaned and sanitised the classrooms, laboratories, common areas, washrooms and the library thoroughly. We plan to sanitise the school building every day after classes and get the toilets cleaned periodically through the day. We have also put up posters around the school premises to create awareness regarding COVID protocol,” said Ms. Ray who, until recently, was the principal of Joynagar Institution for Girls on the rural fringes of Kolkata.

“Online class worked”

Prof. Debasish Mondal, teacher-in-charge at St. Paul’s Cathedral Mission College, said that while online classes worked out well, practical classes were suffering and therefore it was important that students returned to the colleges.

“We have come to realise that online teaching isn’t such a bad idea — it is an idea that can be put to use as and when required. Students performed well even when the learning was online,” said Prof. Mondal, who said his college had formed a COVID-monitoring team to handle its reopening.

“A class of 15 will move to a room that can hold 30, similarly a class of 30 will move to a hall that can accommodate 60. The canteen will remain closed. The idea is to ensure social distancing. We have also tied up with a nearby hospital, just in case someone shows symptoms. It is a new situation for all of us, we are to going to watch for 15 days before deciding the next course of action,” Prof. Mondal said.

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