The Karnataka government on Saturday decided to reopen schools and Pre-University Colleges in the state for class 10 and second year PUC (class 12) students from January 1.It also decided to start the Vidyagama programme, which enables continued schooling for students from classes six to nine, from that date. The decisions were taken at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on reopening schools and PU colleges in the state. He said the advice given by the state's Technical Advisory Committee for COVID-19 on reopening schools and colleges was discussed in detail for about an hour.
They suggested starting classes 10 and 12 (second PUC) from January 1 and for imparting education for students from classes six to nine through the Vidyagama programme, he said. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Yediyurappa said "Everyone has unanimously agreed to it...so it has been agreed to start classes 10 and 12 from January 1 and Vidyagama for classes 6 to 9 students.".
The Chief Minister added that a decision on reopening schools for students of other classes would be taken after reviewing the situation for 15 days.
Both classes 10 and second PUC are crucial as students will have to face board exams. Schools and PU colleges have remained closed since March just ahead of the national lockdown was first enforced to combat COVID-19. Degree and engineering colleges in the state were reopened on November 17.
Each class will be limited to 15 students for classes 10 and 12. Students of classes 6-9 will have classes in an open area in the school premises.
The government, on the advice of the technical advisory committee, last month decided not to reopen the schools and PU colleges in December, citing cold weather and chances of a second wave.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar said two things had to be kept in mind when reopening schools - the health of students and the second,their academic future "We are balancing both and taking all necessary care," he said.
Standard Operating Procedure has been prepared on reopening schools and the duration it should be held, he said, adding that the Rural Development and Urban Development departments would take necessary steps to sanitise government school classrooms.
Also, hostels run by the Social Welfare Department will be opened for the students.
"Attending classes is not compulsory as students can continue with classes that are online, Youtube or telecast on DD Chandana channel," he added.
The Minister said the present Vidyagama programme would be an improvised version of Vidyagama-1, for which government has mandated, among other things, that students would have to get a permission letter from parents and they should not attend classes if they exhibited symptoms of COVID-19.
"The change in the new Vidyagama is it will be held only in school premises and students can attend it three days a week," he said. The minister said it was not compulsory for students to attend classes and added that the government's intention was that no student should be left out of this system.
The programme was not the patent of the government and they expected private schools to also follow it, he said.
The Vidyagama scheme was discontinued in October after COVID-19 cases were reported.
As of December 18, Karnataka had reported 9,07,123 COVID-19 infections, while the toll stood at 11,989. The number of active cases was 15,380.