Senior students return to school; bus service, lunch not yet resumed

Schools in Delhi reopened for senior students after more than a month on Monday, but the continuation of ‘hybrid mode’ means bus services and midday meals are yet to return.

Although schools have opened and closed several times since the start of the pandemic, at least for students in the upper grades, bus services have not resumed. A handful of schools tried to reintroduce the service in November, but were unable to do so due to repeated closures in that month and in December.

“In November, we had tried to find out how many parents would like their children to take advantage of the bus services, but before this process had even been completed, we were interrupted by another closure. Now we are doing it again and until we know how many people would like it, we won’t be able to do our routes,” Principal Jyoti Arora of Mount Abu Public School in Rohini said.

In many schools, very few students have expressed interest in using bus services in the past. At Bal Bharati Public School, Ganga Ram Hospital Marg, only 6% of parents had expressed their will in a survey in November, which school authorities say makes the introduction of bus services unsustainable.

According to Principal LV Sehgal, they will consider introducing the service if the numbers increase and parents approach them.

Pupils from kindergarten to class VIII will also return to school next Monday but cooked lunches will not resume. With the closure of schools, the Delhi government had started distributing dry rations instead of cooked meals.

According to an education department official, this system will continue as long as the hybrid mode – which means students are allowed to opt for an offline or online course – continues as not all eligible children are expected to be at school every day.

In Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya Block C, 1,566 of the approximately 3,000 students who were called to the school reported. With its huge student body – it has sections up to ‘m’ and ‘o’ in classes X and XII – space is tight, not least because large parts of the school building are currently under renovation. Once the younger classes also join next week, half of the students will be called up each day.

“Now is the time to focus on academics. Students in classes X and XII soon have their second semester exams and these will be subjective, unlike the first semester exams. We need to start with practical work and have them practice writing. Even during the winter holidays, we asked the teachers to take a test with them every Friday that they had to write by hand, just to make them practice writing,” said director Seema Wadhwa.

According to Wadhwa, 96% of eligible students at the school received at least one dose of the vaccine. Indeed, even as classes were taking place on Monday, the vaccination of students was underway in the primary section. Misbah (16) excused herself for 45 minutes from class to get her second dose.

Several large private schools reopened on Monday, but even in schools where all students were called, attendance did not cross 50%. At Mount Abu, attendance was 48%.

At Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park, all students will be called out daily as it has been observed that turnout ends up being less than half. On Monday, the school saw less than 50% of pupils in classes X, XI and XII turn up. Class XI saw higher attendance due to its upcoming internal exams.

Melvin Z. Madore