West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said schools and colleges in the state will reopen from November 16, after a gap of around 20 months, and directed the chief secretary to facilitate the process.
A school education department official said the government will issue a notification for resuming classroom teaching from classes nine to 12.
The decision about reopening schools for other classes will be made later depending on the emergent Covid-19 situation, the official said.
Plans are being chalked out for resuming physical classes in colleges, a source in the state secretariat said.
"Reopen schools and colleges from November 16. Before that, you have to carry out cleaning there and other measures," Banerjee told Chief Secretary H K Dwivedi at an administrative review meeting at Uttar Kanya, the branch secretariat of the state government in Siliguri in north Bengal.
The chief minister had said earlier in the day that educational institutions will reopen from November 15.
"Earlier, I had said educational institutions will reopen on November 15. But since that is a holiday (tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda's birth anniversary), schools will now reopen on November 16," she said.
Schools and colleges in the state have been closed since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March last year.
"As per the preliminary plans, students of junior classes till Class 8 will continue to have online classes and they do not need to be present at schools physically. Plans are being made for reopening colleges," a highly-placed source in the state secretariat told PTI.
Meanwhile, doctors and educationists welcomed the decision to reopen educational institutions.
"Children have been eagerly waiting for the schools to reopen. This was needed for a long time. But we must also not forget about the precautionary measures needed to be taken for the children attending physical classes," renowned gastroenterologist Dr Abhijit Chowdhury said.
Senior physician Dr Syamasis Bandyopadhyay said, "Online classes are like child''s play. I thank the CM for taking such a positive decision. Children have been eagerly waiting for schools and colleges to reopen. Now that the decision has been made, I believe that it will help them a lot."
Educationists said institutes should be reopened in a phased manner.
"Students have suffered a lot due to closure of educational institution campuses for over one-and-a-half years. The decision by the CM is welcome. But since the Covid situation still hasn''t gone and there has been a rise in infection in the state, we need to tread with caution. Schools should be opened in a phased manner," educationist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri said.
The headmistress of Manimala High School at Asansol in Paschim Bardhaman district Ranjana Roy Choudhury said students of higher and lower classes should be allowed to attend classes on different days to avoid crowding.
The headmaster of Kolkata''s Jadavpur Vidyapith, Parimal Bhattacharya, said the school administration has initiated steps to sanitise the premises before the puja vacation.
"We are planning to start higher classes in groups and make seating arrangements accordingly. We will go by the notification of the school education department," he added.
Siuli Sarkar, the principal of Lady Brabourne College in Kolkata, said, "We are ready to open our campus for offline classes where students will sit keeping a distance and in small batches. We will decide on the modalities once the government order is issued."