Jammu, Sep 20: After remaining closed for months to prevent the spread of coronavirus, various schools reopened on Monday for students of classes 10 and 12 across Jammu in accordance with the fresh government guidelines, officials said.
However, they said the attendance in both private and government schools for the two classes was low but expected to pick up in the coming days.
All educational institutions, including universities and colleges, were closed for offline classes on April 18 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many higher education institutions have started functioning for vaccinated students early this month.
According to the latest Covid containment guidelines issued by State Executive Committee (SEC) chairperson and Chief Secretary Arun Kumar Mehta on Sunday evening, the government allowed schools to reopen for classes 10 and 12 for in-person teaching with certain conditions, including permission from the deputy commissioner concerned and strict adherence of Covid-appropriate behaviour.
The regular classes for 12th standard were permitted in the educational institutions with limited in-person teaching not exceeding 50 per cent on a given day for vaccinated students and staff. Likewise, limited in-person teaching of class 10 students, not exceeding 50 per cent on any given day, was permitted by the deputy commissioner concerned after ensuring compliance with Covid-appropriate behaviour by the school management.
"However, the classes will be run after due screening through 100 per cent Rapid Antigen Test or RT-PCR which will also be subject to consent of parents and students," the order read.
The principal of Shiksha Niketan Higher Secondary School, Rameshwar Mengi, said 20 per cent of the nearly 3,000 enrolled students of classes 10 and 12 attended school on the first day.
"We have received consent from parents of 60 per cent students and are hopeful that the student attendance will pick up in the coming days," he told PTI.
However, he said the majority of class 12 students have not been vaccinated since they are just 17 years of age.
"We raised the issue with the Jammu deputy commissioner, who permitted us to admit the students for offline classes after 100 per cent RT-PCR tests, he said.
He said only those students who have a negative COVID-19 report were allowed to enter the school premises after proper screening and hand sanitisation.
"All the classrooms have already been sanitised and proper seating arrangements have been made in each class to maintain social distance, he said.
Kunal Singh, a class 10 student, said he is happy to return to the school after a long gap.
"Online is no alternative to offline classes. We will try to utilise the opportunity to clear our doubts and prepare ourselves for the final examination, Singh said.
Another student, Taaniya thanked the school administration for making necessary arrangements to ensure safety of the students.
"My parents were concerned about my safety but they will heave a sigh of relief when I will brief them about the strict adherence of Covid-appropriate behaviour by the management, she said, expressing hope that they would complete their syllabus without any further breaks.
The SEC has also reiterated reopening of coaching centres for Civil Services or Engineering or NEET with limited in-person teaching but only for fully vaccinated staff and students.
All other coaching centres, along with schools for the rest of the classes, will continue to remain closed for in-person teaching, the order said.
Meanwhile, the administration has doubled the cap on gatherings from 25 to 50 at banquet halls subject to certain conditions and also cut night curfew timing in some districts by two hours.
"While maximum number of people permitted to attend indoor/outdoor gatherings will remain strictly restricted to 25, the banquet halls in the districts where Covid positivity rate is below 0.2 and weekly case load is less than 250, will be permitted to enhance limit of guests to 50 for vaccinated persons or those with verifiable RT-PCR or RAT report not older than 72 hours, the SEC said.
"The district magistrates and superintendents of police will ensure compliance of the order, it said.
While night curfew will remain in force in all districts from 8 pm to 7 am, the districts with positivity rate below 0.2 and weekly caseload less than 250 will observe curfew restrictions from 10 pm to 6 am, the order said.