Private schools in Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Buddh Nagar are struggling to get students of Classes 9 to 12 back in classrooms as parents continue to feel unsafe to send their wards for physical classes due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Private schools recorded a mere 14 per cent attendance of students on Tuesday, while government and aided schools clocked 39 per cent in Noida and Greater Noida, according to government officials. After a seven-month hiatus due to the pandemic, the state government had allowed reopening schools for Classes 9 to 12 from October 19, District Inspector Of Schools (DIOS) Neeraj Kumar Pandey said.
“Online classes are fine but they do not have the gravity of a physical classroom. Once the time passes, it won’t be possible to recover the academic loss,”Mr Pandey told PTI, adding that his concern was chiefly for students in Class 12 who would be facing qualifying examinations after school to get into colleges. He said more awareness and confidence building measures are required between private schools and parents and suggested that students could be called for at least two-three days and engaged in laboratory work. He also added that the rule for reducing the number of students in a class would provide an ideal student-teacher ratio, calling on parents to send their wards to schools again.
“I have inspected schools and found their preparations top class. They are well equipped and prepared for social distancing measures, and regularly sanitising their premises as per guidelines,” the higher school education officer said. There are 153 schools in the district — 53 of them government and government-aided while the remaining self-financed — according to officials. Noida-resident Shivarpit Katoch, whose son is a Class 11 student, said if given a choice now, he would prefer online mode of education for his ward.
“No doubt the schools are preparing for regular classroom studies and assuring adherence to social distancing guidelines, but I am not sure if children will display the maturity of following the rules. Even if there are 16 or 20 students in a class, the risk (of contracting the infection) will be there,” Mr Katoch told PTI.
Renu Singh, Principal of the Amity International School, Noida, said the response of parents so far has not been encouraging. “Majority feels it is not safe as of now,” Singh said. She added that necessary arrangements have been made as per preventive protocols and the school has adequate arrangement for sanitiser, hand wash, masks and also ready with thermal scanners and oximeters at all entry points. “Isolation room, in case required, has been prepared. Doctors will be there to attend to students, thermal checking records will be maintained. All guidelines received from the DIOS shall be followed,” Ms Singh said. She added that only half the number of students will be there in a class and seating plan leaving one seat vacant is worked out.
The Shiv Nadar School, which has branches in Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad, said 90 per cent of the parents of their students polled for continuing online classes. “We conducted an online survey to assess the preference of parents between online and physical classes in October and November 2020,” a spokesperson for the school said. “As per the results of the survey, an overwhelming majority of parents (90 per cent) at Shiv Nadar School Noida are in the favour of online mode of learning in October and November. Given that, a call has been taken by the management to continue with the online mode of learning till the end of November,” the spokesperson added. However, the school said it was monitoring the situation and the state government’s orders closely and will reach out to the parents towards the latter half of November to reassess their preference.
The Shriram Millennium School, which has branches in Noida, Faridabad and Gurgaon, is continuing with online mode of classes, too. In a communication sent out to parents earlier in October, Uttar Singh, the school’s principal and director, said the school considered the health of “Shri Parivar” above everything else and sought to have the feedback of parents to finalise the dates for reopening physical classes. However, it had given an option to students wanting physical classes or doubt-clearing sessions, besides practical classes for science as well as for some co-curricular activities.