Decision on reopening of schools likely to be taken today; many private schools have decided to stick to online classes
The Vidyagama continuous learning programme will be re-launched from January 1 in all schools — government, aided, and private — across Karnataka.
Under the programme, students can come to their school campus to attend classes in small batches. In a circular issued on Wednesday, the Department of Public Instruction said that Vidyagama was relaunched as there was a delay in the reopening of schools.
The decision on whether schools across Karnataka will reopen in January or not is likely to be taken on Thursday.
The COVID-19 technical advisory committee and department officials will be meeting to discuss the modalities. Many States have restarted schools, and there is a growing demand in Karnataka to do the same, especially for students in classes 10 and 12 who have to write the board examinations next year.
For now, however, schools can start holding classes under Vidyagama. A senior official in the department said that it would be mandatory for all government teachers to conduct classes under this programme. “But we cannot force private schools to conduct classes under Vidyagama,” the official said.
The department in the circular reiterated that schools can start Vidygama after ensuring that all safety measures are in place. Classes will have to be conducted in batches and as per the timetable issued by the department. They can be held in classrooms, libraries, and verandas.
The programme, which was initially introduced on August 8 for government school students, was put on hold on October 10 after there were reports of teachers and children contracting COVID-19.
The department on Tuesday issued revised guidelines for the re-launch of Vidyagama by extending it to private unaided schools as well. When it first started, private school managements had criticised the government for opening it to only for government schools.
Many private schools averse to starting Vidyagama
While the State government has said that all schools can conduct classes on the school campus starting January, many private schools have decided to stick to online classes, particularly for primary school students.
Sumanth Narayan, vice-chairman of Shanthinikethana School, said they would not start Vidyagama as the school management does not want to take any risk till students were vaccinated. “Even though we take a consent letter from the parents before conducting classes, we will be accountable if the COVID-19 infection spreads on our campus. So, we have decided not to launch this programme,” he said.
Dakshayini Kanna, principal of Harvest International School, said the school had conducted two surveys and 90% of the parents did not want to send their children to school. “We will continue with our online classes. We will have a meeting and consider conducting classes for students between classes nine and 12 with parent consent,” she said.
Managements of many schools are yet to decide if they should provide transport facility if classes start. B.R. Supreeth, secretary, Oxford Universal Public School, said they would start classes only for students from class nine and urged the department to issue the standard operating procedures and norms to be followed. “Parents will not be mentally prepared to send the students below class five. So, we are not considering doing this,” he said.
However, parents are disappointed that many private schools will not be conducting Vidyagama programme. Shruthi S.R., mother of a class five student, said, “Although teachers conduct online classes, my son finds it hard to cope. I hope that schools start the classes with all precautionary measures.”