Schools in West Bengal reopened on Tuesday for students of classes 9-12 after shutting doors for physical classes for nearly 20 months owing to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
Classes for students of junior and middle schools will continue in the online mode for the time being, even as the state's Education Minister Bratya Basu has said that efforts are on to gradually bring all pupils back to the classrooms.
Students queued up at school gates across West Bengal since morning as per the schedule announced by the state government for holding classes in different timings for secondary and higher secondary sections. This segregation was undertaken to minimise mingling to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Teachers and staffers welcomed the boys and girls with hand sanitiser and thermal guns to check their temperature and advised them to wear masks at all times throughout the school hours.
Basu has said that no student would be forced to attend physical classes and it is up to them and their parents to take a call on this.
Some parents, though happy over the reopening of schools for physical classes, expressed apprehension whether their wards will adhere to the guidelines for Covid safety since the students will be seeing each other and sitting in classrooms together after a very long time.
Educational institutions were closed for physical classes in March, 2020 after the central government announced a countrywide Covid-induced lockdown.
Though the lockdown was later lifted, schools and colleges continued to remain closed in the state owing to the pandemic situation.
Colleges and universities also opened their gates to students on Tuesday, although authorities of some of these institutions have said that different days will be scheduled for various faculties to reduce crowding and mingling on campuses.
"I am thrilled to be back in school after such a long time, interacting online can never be as good as talking to friends and teachers face to face," said Sohini Mukherjee, student of a private school in south Kolkata.
As a government school teacher in north Kolkata put it, "It feels so good that the children will be back among us in the school; in institutions like ours, online can never be an equal alternative to face-to-face interaction between students and teachers."
Students have been asked not to share their tiffin and to adhere to social distancing norms.
"Though I have asked my son to adhere to the norms, I really do not know how far they will actually maintain these, given that they will be meeting after such a long time," said Partha Biswas, parent of a class 9 student.
(With PTI Inputs)