For 15-year-old Prisha Cholera, her first day back in school was not what she had expected. While she was impatience to enter the classroom and find a seat next to her best friend, the Class 10 student found herself feeling apprehensive.
“The minute I entered the school, my first instinct was to wear a double mask and look for my sanitiser. Even when I saw my friend at the gate, we didn’t hug, as we usually would. Never before did we have such apprehensions,” said Prisha, a class 10 student of D G Khetan International School, Malad.
Monday marked the first day back to school for students across batches 8 to 12 in the city. However, the management of S G Khetan decided to start the first day of physical school only for students of classes 10 and 12 with their end of semester exams.
The day started at 8am as school staff stood at the gate to welcome students and remind everyone to maintain social distancing.
“It was different to see students already following Covid-19 protocols and maintaining distance from each other. Even once students settled on their classrooms, teachers encouraged students to share their experiences and were very sad to hear about the experiences of some students. It’s sad to see what a pandemic has done to routine school life,” said Kavita Agarwal, the school’s director.
Typically, nearly 800 students would walk in the gates of the school in two separate sessions, with parents dropping off their children on the first of day of school. On Monday, however, students entered the school premises in a single file and parents turned away from the gates.
“We (principal and teachers) were all waiting to see excitement among students and parents, many of whom have been part of the institute for more than a decade. But I could barely recognise parents through their masks and students too showed barely any excitement. First day of school is supposed to be full of stories but that’s not what happened,” added Agarwal.
Devansh Dhanuka (14) another class 10 student, knew exactly what he wanted to do the minute he entered the school premises.
Sanitise hands, wear mask, say hello to teachers, drop bag in classroom and head straight to the stilt area (common play area) to meet up with his friends and catch up on football.
“I was heartbroken when our staff informed us that only the classrooms on the ground floor and the auditorium where exams were on are open for students. Rest of the school premises remain off limits,” said Devansh.
The stilt areas, routinely used by students between school hours to play football, basketball, kho-kho and kabbadi wore a barren look, though over 150 students were present on campus. “I’m already in class 10 and this could be the last year in school. My year will be incomplete without a few friendly games with my friends on the school campus,” added Devansh.
The school management, for the time being, has decided to call only class 10 and 12 students and complete their exams over the next few days. Starting October 20, class 9 students too will be asked to attend physical classes while the rest will join post Diwali holidays.
“We miss how lively our school gets with students around and we cannot wait for things to go back to normalcy. After all, a school without its daily hustle is just another building,” Agarwal said.
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