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Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar today announced that schools and colleges will reopen in the Pune district from 1 February.

“For classes 1 to 8, the school timings will be half of the regular timings, but for classes 9 to 10, the school will run as per the regular schedule. Colleges will also function as per regular time," said Ajit Pawar.

"The final decision to send children to schools and colleges will be on the parents. But the administration will reopen schools," said Pawar, who is also the guardian minister of the district. Colleges and schools for Classes 9 and up will be full-time, while schools for Classes 1 to 8 will be for half day so that lunch time gets excluded and students won’t have to take off their masks to eat, he said. 

Talking about COVID-19 vaccination for children in the 15-18 age group, the minister said, "College students should get both doses of vaccines. We plan to have mobile vans and make other arrangements so that vaccines can be administered in schools and colleges." At least 86 per cent of eligible children have taken the vaccine in the rural areas, while in Pune city and Pimpri Chinchwad, the number is less, he said.

Meanwhile, Pune on Friday recorded 7,166 COVID-19 cases, taking the district's tally to 13,88,687, while 12 deaths increased the toll to 19,429, an official said. He said 3,374 cases were reported in Pune city, 2,261 in Pimpri Chinchwad, and 1,205 in rural and 98 cantonment limits. As on Friday, the district has 2,520 active cases in institutional isolation and 73,471 in home quarantine, the official informed.

Earlier schools resumed physical sessions for classes 1 to 12 in Maharashtra on 24 January and the state government expressed hope that students would enjoy being back to their classrooms in a safe atmosphere. Last week, the Maharashtra government allowed the offline classes to resume from January 24 after Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray approved a proposal to this effect that was sent to him by the school education department. Schools across the state were closed in the first week of January due to a spike in the coronavirus cases and in the wake of the emergence of the highly infectious Omicron variant. 

However, a number of parents, activists in the field as well as teachers had strongly opposed the move to shut the schools, saying it would adversely affect the students. In Mumbai, the local civic body had earlier announced the closure of schools for Classes 1 to 9 till January 31. But, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) assessment later indicated that the cases of Omicron infection were not on the rise, and it had said the curve was flattening.

*With inputs from agencies

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