Several private schools on Wednesday said government officials had called them up asking them whether they were continuing with in-person classes or had switched to online teaching, and requesting them to go for an early summer break.
The calls seem to have rattled at least some of the private schools and made them rethink their decision to resume in-person classes following the rain since last Saturday, which has brought down the Celsius.
These schools spoke to this newspaper on condition that they will not be named.
Some of the school heads said the calls from the officials sounded like an inquiry.
Many of the heads were told that they should follow the state government’s circular, which prescribes summer vacation from May 2 to June 15 for this year.
Some school heads said the calls were a “pressure tactic” by the government.
An official at the office of the district inspector (DI) of schools in Kolkata told The Telegraph that they were calling up private schools from Wednesday, requesting them to implement the school education department’s circular issued on April 27.
The circular announced that the summer vacation had been advanced and would start from May 2 in schools, except those in the hill districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, because of the heat spell.
The official said that if there is a government directive, it should be implemented in all schools, government or private.
The board examinations of classes X and XII can continue, the official said.
The official said the decision to make the calls was taken after it came to their notice that several private schools were calling students back to the campus or have decided to do so following an improvement in the weather.
“The directorate of school education took note of it and asked us to request all 252 private schools in Kolkata to abide by the April 27 directive. Officials at the DI office are taking turns in making the calls. We hope the schools will comply with the directive and hold classes online till further orders,” the official said.
Several principals who got such calls told the officials who contacted them that there is pressure from parents to continue with in-person classes and not revert to online teaching, which the schools switched to after campuses had been shut down in March 2020 because of Covid.
“The purpose of the circular was to bring forward the summer break because of the heat. The weather is much better now and we are answerable to the parents, who are demanding in-person classes, especially because physical classes were not held for around two years,” the principal of a school in south Kolkata said.
The schools also highlighted another problem. “The students have just started to settle down in physical classrooms after a gap of two years. Going for a long break now would mean whatever progress we have made will be undone,” the principal of a school in north Kolkata said.
An official in the DI’s office said the schools did tell them about the changed weather conditions.
“But the temperature is expected to spike again soon. In that case the students of private schools will suffer again. There has to be uniformity in observing summer vacation by private and government schools,” the official said.
“Private schools are required to take a No-objection certificate (needed to start an institution) from the state government. Hence, it is expected they would pay heed to what the government says.”
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had told education secretary Manish Jain to inform private schools that the government had decided to bring forward the summer vacation as the “kids are suffering a lot because of the heat”.