The Andhra Pradesh government has announced that school timings will be reduced to half days starting from April 1, due to the summer heat, as well as rising COVID-19 cases. Students of classes 1 to 10 will have classes from 7.45 am to 12.30 pm, Education Department officials said. Mid-day meals will be provided after classes end, before students leave for their homes. School teachers and administrators have been instructed to conduct regular COVID-19 tests for students, and follow safety protocol including physical distancing, masks and sanitising.
Andhra Pradesh was among the first states to fully reopen schools for all classes. Schools were reopened in a phased manner, with students of classes 9 and 10 returning to schools in November 2020, class 6 to 8 in January 2021, and classes 1 to 5 in February. At present, school timings are 9 am to 3.30 pm for primary and middle grades, and 9 am to 4 pm for high school students.
At the time of reopening for classes 9 and 10, within three days of schools reopening, a total of 829 teachers and 575 students had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. While attendance remained below 50% at the time of reopening, school administrators had said that more students returned to schools in the subsequent months.
In the past few weeks, COVID-19 cases have begun to peak in schools in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. On March 10, around 57 students of a Vedic School near Tirumala tested positive for coronavirus after rapid antigen tests were done. In Kurnool district, officials have reportedly said that since the reopening of schools in November, a total of 206 students and 41 teachers have tested positive.
Earlier in February, a fake circular claiming that the government had declared holidays for schools from March 1 to May 4 in order to contain COVID-19 cases went viral on social media. State Minister for Education Adimulapu Suresh refuted the claims, which started to circulate at a time when a lockdown and shutdown of schools were announced in parts of Maharashtra with rising COVID-19 infections.
Similar to many other states, Andhra Pradesh has also seen a trend of increasing COVID-19 cases in the past weeks. A total of 368 new cases were recorded in the state in the 24-hour period ending at 9 am on Sunday.