MUMBAI: Maharashtra minister Varsha Gaikwad on Thursday said the state government has allowed reopening of schools for Classes 1 to 9 for offline classroom sessions from January 24.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has approved a proposal to this effect that was sent to him by the school education department, she told reporters.
"Written instructions on this will be issued either today or tomorrow," the school education minister added.
Schools in Maharashtra were closed in the first week of January due to a spike in the coronavirus cases and in the wake of the emergence of the highly infectious Omicron variant.
However, a number of parents, activists in the field as well as teachers had strongly opposed the move to shut the schools, saying it would adversely affect the students.
In Mumbai, the local civic body had announced the closure of schools for Classes 1 to 9 till January 31.
However, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) assessment had indicated that the cases of Omicron infection are not on the rise, and it had said that the curve was flattening.
It prompted the officials to propose the reopening of schools for physical attendance.
"Our SOPs are very strict and clear. We have given four days of advance notice to the management of schools to undertake vaccination and sanitisation and for preparation of time-table. The timing and other necessary decisions will be taken by the local authorities, such as district collector or municipal commissioner based on the local situations," Gaikwad said.
On Wednesday, she had said that a proposal to reopen the schools in the state had been sent to the chief minister for his approval.
Meanwhile, Bhau Chaskar, a senior activist in the education sector, said, "It was an unfair decision to shut the schools when malls and restaurants were kept open. It is imperative for children, especially for the students of Classes 1 to 4 to develop learning skills, social bonding, which happens only when you attend classes in person."
Children who are deeply affected due to the prolonged suspension of physical attendance in schools need some time to come back on track of learning and socialising.
The schools were reopened in the first week of December, but due to the rising Omicron cases, the schools were shut arbitrarily.
The Omicron cases are restricted to limited cities, but the entire state was made to suffer due to it, he said.
"Such decisions should have been taken with proper consultation. There are many villages and towns where Omicron or Delta variant of COVID-19 was absent or has negligible presence. The schools in such areas should have been kept open, but bureaucracy failed to rise to the occasion," Chaskar added.
Sulakshana Bhujbal, a parent from Mulund area of Mumbai, said, "We were a bit concerned when the schools were reopened in December first week, but soon realised its importance. My daughter, after meeting her friends and attending her classes in the school, was extremely happy. But the decision of suddenly closing down the schools came as a shock for us. Now we are happy that the decision to reopen the schools has been taken."