Amid concerns of a possible third wave of COVID-19 in coming months, parents are divided over the plan to reopen schools in the national capital.
An expert committee set up by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has recommended a phase-wise reopening of schools in the national capital beginning September.
"The risk is not over yet. Reopening schools right before October-November during which the third wave has been predicted by experts, is not a wise decision. A system for online learning is already in place and extending it for few weeks or a month more will not cause any major harm when schools have been closed for so long already," said Aparajita Gautam, President, Delhi Parents' Association.
Deeksha Verma, mother of a nine-year-old, said, "A flexible plan is a better option. If schools have to be reopened, they should not resume full time classes. There can be blended learning in beginning. We all know several countries are seeing resurgence in cases and we could be next".
The All India Parents' Association (AIPA), however, has been demanding reopening of schools. "What is the justification in indefinitely delaying reopening of schools in Delhi? Like 2020-21, 2021-22 is also becoming zero academic year," AIPA President Ashok Agarwal said.
Echoing his views, Nishant Bhardwaj, father of twins studying in class 8 said, "The government has already indicated that parental consent will be necessary for children to attend school and those who do not want will be able to attend online classes. What is the issue then? If some parents are not in favour, they can choose not to send their wards."
Several school principals and education experts, however, are in favour of reopening schools.
"It's high time we should welcome students back to school to break the monotonous cycle of remote learning. This will help schools to traverse the learning gaps and students to cope with the learning outcomes," Mittal said.
Anirudh Khaitan, Treasurer, FICCI ARISE, a collegium of stakeholders aimed at promoting quality education, said COVID-19 has had a dire impact on students across the country.
"Apart from learning loss, they are suffering from a lack of social skills. There is also an increase in the impact on their academic skill set, mental health and emotional well-being too," he said.
"However, there are critics who are concerned about the imminent third wave coming in and the reopening of schools. Therefore, to ensure utmost safety of the students, schools need to take bold decisions about reopening with strict protocols in place," he added.
In its report submitted on Wednesday, the DDMA panel recommended that students from senior classes be called in the first phase followed by the middle-grade students and ultimately the primary classes.
The committee has also said that willing parents should have the option of sending their child to school and others can opt for online classes.
Schools in the national capital were ordered shut last year in March ahead of a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
While several states started partial reopening of schools in October last year, the Delhi government allowed physical classes only for grades 9-12 in January this year, which were again suspended following the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases during the aggressive second wave.
Currently, students of classes 10, 11 and 12 can visit schools with the consent of parents for admission and board exam-related activities.