It’s back to school, but not for many | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools

Visakhapatnam/Amaravati: From new seating arrangements to maintaining social distancing, attending classes on alternate days to getting a revised timetable sans sports period and minimised school hours, it is not going to be the same for students who are all set to head to schools voluntarily from Monday after a long break in Andhra Pradesh.

As some of the schools prepare to reopen partially even while the pandemic is raging, elaborate plans are in place to reschedule the curriculum for the students from Classes IX to XII who are preparing to step into their school campus from Monday. Nearly 50 per cent of teachers will attend the duty. Besides the schools, junior inter colleges will also be re-opened on Monday.

But, with Covid-19 changing the landscape of education beyond imagination, and 7,738 fresh cases of corona registered on Sunday, not many parents appear to be serious about sending their wards to schools, no matter how crucial their academic year is.

For many parents, concerns over getting infected outweigh skipping their ward’s academic year itself. “I know it’s a crucial year for my daughter N Akshaya who is now in Class X. But until the vaccine for Covid-19 is accessible, as parents, we cannot put our daughter’s life to risk. Since signal is weak in Simhachalam area where we reside, I am planning to work it out for my daughter by investing in quality internet connection rather than keeping my fingers crossed until she returns from school every day.

If you ask me whether the academic year does not play any role, I would definitely say it is not as important to us as our daughter’s life,” reasons N Viswa Vijaya Prasad, a parent.

Concerned over the increasing number of corona virus cases, another parent Firoza Mandal says that she prefers virtual classes for her daughter rather than the real ones. “Even if they say it’s mandatory to attend classes, we are still reluctant to send our daughter to school as the pandemic is still raging,” she opines.

While parents consider it unsafe to nudge their wards back to school, even some of the students say that they don’t look forward to attending classes at the moment. “Currently, online classes are effective and in case if I have any doubts, my teachers are always there to clarify them. In schools, no matter how we try hard to wear masks and face shields, maintaining social distancing could be far challenging, especially among friends,” says Sumee Ireen, a Class XII student.

In Guntur, a parent P Ravi Krishna said, “Every day more than 500 Covid-19 cases are reported in Guntur district and I will send my children to schools after two weeks.”

Guntur District Education Officer RS Ganga Bhavani says, “As per government directions, we will open schools from September 21 to clarify doubts of students of Class 9th and 10th. The students may come to school during the working hours to clarify their doubts and made it clear that there will be no regular classes.”

School managements say they are taking all safety measures. “We are planning to reopen the school for Classes IX and X and that too for a few hours initially. Shift system will be introduced and only half the class strength will be asked to attend the school. Teachers were already instructed to upload the Aarogya Setu App. Once we get the consent letters from the parents, the date to reopen will be fixed,” says Dr Eshwari Prabhakar, Principal of Delhi Public School, Anandapuram branch in Visakhapatnam.

As educational institutions collect written consent from parents for their wards, it fails to go down well among several parents. “Are school managements not responsible for the risk associated with the reopening decision in times of the pandemic? Why will a parent give written consent, risking their wards’ life?” wonder a few parents.

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