More than 50 state-aided primary schools in town and at least two private English-medium schools have tweaked their timings to spare their students the tortuous afternoon heat.
Government schools have been starting early and giving over by 11.30am since the past couple of days so that children can go back home before noon, when the Celsius starts to peak.
“Most (government-aided) schools are starting at 6.30am and giving over at 11.30am. The normal schedule is a 10.45am start and the final bell at 4.30pm,” said Kartick Manna, project director of the Sarva Siksha Mission for Calcutta district.
St. James’ School too has decided to wrap up classes before noon from Monday and Calcutta Girls’ High School will follow the same schedule from Friday.
Heads of at least 52 government-aided primary schools across the city, including Park Circus, Kasba, Garia, Bantala, Bowbazar, College Street, Rajabazar, Kidderpore and Tiljala, had approached the inspector of schools for permission to tweak class timings because of the heatwave.
“The day’s maximum temperature is recorded in the afternoon, generally between 2pm and 3pm. We want the children to be back home before this. So permission has been granted to all schools to change their timings accordingly,” a source in the district inspectorate of schools said.
Calcutta has about 2,500 primary schools, including many state-aided institutions with classrooms that aren’t spacious and properly ventilated. “This makes it even more difficult for the students to cope with the oppressive heat,” an official said.
The flip side of a pre-noon close is that students are having to wake up and leave home for school early. “Parents don’t mind the change in schedule as long as their children return home before the heat reaches the day’s high,” said a teacher posted in a Hindi-medium state-aided primary school in Bowbazar.
Private English-medium schools may have much better infrastructure than state-aided institutions but even they are buckling under the impact of the heat.
“Children have been falling sick in school and feeling dehydrated, so we decided to make the changes from Monday onwards,” said Terence Ireland, principal of St. James’ School.
From kindergarten to Class XII, the AJC Bose Road school will start at 7.15am instead of 8am and give over at 11am instead of 1.35pm. The routine will be followed till the school closes for the summer vacation.
Only the nursery section will follow its regular 8.30-10am schedule.
Calcutta Girls’ High School’s revised timings from Friday will have classes starting at 7am instead of 8am so that the students can go back home before noon. “We will issue a notice to parents on Thursday. All students will go back between 10.30am and 11.30am. This is till further notice rather than the summer vacation,” principal Basanti Biswas said.
Many other private schools are scheduling their daily activities to keep their students away from the sun’s glare. Modern High School for Girls, the Apeejay schools, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Delhi Public School Ruby Park have restricted outdoor activities and students are being discouraged from stepping out during the lunch break.
Modern High has suspended outdoor games like throwball and basketball. “Since children have to remain indoors due to the heat and later because of the monsoon, we were discussing if we could have indoor games like monopoly or scrabble that would be exciting enough for them,” principal Kaveri Dutt said.
Anushree Ghose, principal of DPS Ruby Park, said all teachers had been instructed to keep students indoors. “On Monday, I sent out text messages to all teachers to ensure that no child is out in the open after 10am.”
Activities such as music classes and chess that are usually held on the covered rooftop of DPS Ruby Park have been shifted to the classrooms.
The health department has cancelled leave for all doctors, nurses and other workers of the paediatric and obstetrics and gynaecology departments of state-run hospitals till the heatwave continues.
“We have noticed that neo-natal mortality rises during such periods of high temperature. There could also be complications associated with childbirth, which is why we have cancelled leave for employees of these departments at all government hospitals,” the principal secretary of the department of health and family welfare said on Wednesday.
All hospitals and health centres under the department have stocked up on oral rehydration solution and workers have been advised on how to deal with cases of heatstroke.