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Poll extends summer break

Many state-aided schools in areas that will go to poll on May 12 will have an extended summer vacation — a week to fortnight more than usual.

The vacation at most schools start between May 15 and May 17. But at a number of schools, which will be used to accommodate security forces for the May 12 poll, the vacation will start on May 1.

An education department official said the election authorities will take over the premises 12 days before the poll and will be in charge of the schools till May 17 or 18. Which means by the time the school authorities get back the campuses, the summer holidays will have started.

“The summer vacation at my school will start from May 1 instead of May 17 this year. The local police station has sent us a letter saying the entire premises will be taken over on May 1 to accommodate security forces,” said the headmaster of a school in north Calcutta.

On May 12, elections will be held in Calcutta North, Calcutta South, Jadavpur, Dum Dum, Bongaon, Basirhat, Barrackpore, Joynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Behrampore, Krishnagar, Ranaghat, Tamluk, Contai and Ghatal.

At schools that will house polling booths and offices, the vacation will start a week early. Such institutions will be taken over on May 9 or 10 and returned to the authorities on May 14 or 15, the education department official said.

“I have been asked to hand over my school to the district administration on May 10. I will get back the premises only on May 15. Which means the summer vacation will effectively start on May 10, instead of May 17,” said the headmaster of a south Calcutta school.

“We could not have opened the school for a day on May 16 as the premises will remain dirty and the students will not be able to attend classes. We will need at least a couple of days to clean the premises,” the headmaster said.

School heads are worried that an early start of the summer vacation will make it difficult for them to meet the government requirement of keeping the institutions open for at least 240 days and clock at least 1,000 teaching hours a year.

“Even when there are no elections, most schools struggle to meet the target of 1,000 teaching hours a years. Most schools do not remain open for more than 220 days. The extended summer vacation will make the target more difficult to achieve,” said a senior official in the education department.

The “1,000 teaching hours” stipulation has been laid down in the right to education act.

“We are required to submit a report to the Sarva Siksha Mission authorities at the end of the year stating whether we have to able to clock 1,000 teaching hours or not. The early start of the summer vacation will lead to problems in fulfilling the target,” said a headmaster.