With COVID-19 positive cases recording a steady decline in the State over the past few weeks, the Odisha government on Saturday allowed the reopening schools for Standards IX to XII in a graded manner after November 15.
However, all academic institutions will remain closed till November 30. The State government revised the guidelines for the month of November hours after it issued the first set of guidelines. Initially, the government had announced the opening of schools for higher classes from November 16.
“The School and Mass Education Department may take appropriate decision with regard to the date of re-opening of schools under its control in respect of 9th to 12th standard, in a graded manner, after November 15 in consultation with relevant stakeholders and issue necessary standard operating procedure (SOP),” says the guideline.
Notwithstanding the closure of academic institutions, the government has permitted certain activities by them, such as the conduct of examinations, evaluation, and administrative work.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March, schools have remained closed. Teachers have been involved in the evaluation of examination papers in some schools, and a door-to-door survey in COVID-19-affected areas.
Unlike in other States, online classes in Odisha have not been so successful due to poor Internet connectivity in remote areas.
School and Mass Education Minister Samir Ranjan Das had himself admitted that only 22 lakh out of 60 lakh students had access to online classes. The number dropped again as parents returned to their workplaces with the family’s only smartphone following the lifting of lockdown.
Apart from broadcast classes through televisions, and online classes through smartphones and computers, the Department tried to tap into radios to reach out to students stranded in their villages during the pandemic.
In anticipation of the opening of schools, the School and Mass Education Department had started cleaning and sanitising classrooms over the past few days.
Higher education institutions will be permitted to open only for research scholars and post-graduate students in the science and technology stream requiring laboratory and experimental work.
In another significant decision, the government has allowed the entry of the public in places of worship with appropriate restrictions based on a local assessment of the situation with regard to the spread of COVID-19, in consultation with the relevant stakeholders.
International air travel of passengers except where permitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs will continue to remain shut down till November 30, while large social, political and sports establishments, and academic, cultural and religious functions and other congregations, will remain prohibited till November 30.
Wedding-related gatherings will be allowed with a maximum of 200 persons, and funeral rites with a maximum of 50 persons.
The daily spike in COVID-19 cases, which was above 4,000, has come down to below 2,000 in the past 12 days. Odisha’s case load grew to 2,90,116, while fatalities rose to 1,320, following 1,470 cases and 12 deaths, respectively, on Saturday.