Hyderabad: The Telangana State High Court on Tuesday stayed the physical reopening of all residential schools including government, private and Social Welfare schools till the State government places before the court all the steps taken by it to prevent spread of Covid-19.
A two judge panel of the Telangana High Court comprising Acting Chief Justice M S Ramchandra Rao and Justice T Vinod Kumar gave a series of directions on the August 24 Memo issued by the government pertaining to reopening of all schools in the State from September 1. The government issued the Memo directing all government and private schools in the State to commence physical classes from September 1. The panel was dealing with a writ plea filed by B. Krishna Mandapati challenging the memo.
After considering all the pleadings, the panel issued directions stating that no school children, either private or government, shall be compelled to attend the school physically. Further, no private or government school should impose any kind of penalty on children for not attending the physical school. The government should also not penalise any school for not conducting physical classes. The panel also directed the school to not insist upon any undertaking form the parents and if any such undertaking is collected, it will not be valid.
It further directed that all the schools to take all precautions to run physical classes. It also further directed the schools to continue online classes along with physical classes in hybrid mode. The panel also directed the State to draft and implement SOPs for schools and all the schools should strictly follow the same. The panel directed the State to file its counter along with all the statistics and steps taken by the state towards the infrastructure created for children, particularly pediatric care.
The panel also sought clarification as to whether all the text books for the children had been printed and issued to them. The panel also directed the Expert Advisory Committee under the Disaster Management Act to place before the panel its advisory report for reopening of the schools. The panel adjourned the matter to October 4.
Senior Counsel L Ravichander, appearing for the petitioner, pointed out to the panel various difficulties including the manner in which the government passed the present memo without putting in place any SOPs for the school. It was also pointed out to the panel that it would be difficult for students, particularly primary and pre-primary children, to maintain physical distance and wear mask.
A question was also raised that schools do not have adequate infrastructure, particularly extra classrooms and related infrastructure to divide the class into two sections to maintain physical distancing, and not adequate nursing staff for any emergency medical help.
B.S. Prasad, Advocate General for the State, informed the panel that the State, after going through several rounds of discussions with various committees and request from UNICEF, had issued the memo. It was further informed that the State was supervising all the schools to ensure that all the protocols are followed by the schools.
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