Schools ‘sweat’ over heat holiday

An overcast sky over the Hooghly on Tuesday afternoon. The Met office expects the maximum temperature to be back at 40 degrees Celsius or higher on Wednesday. Picture by Ankit Datta 

Calcutta: The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations on Tuesday issued a circular to all its affiliated schools in Bengal, requesting them to comply with the state government’s appeal to suspend classes till the heatwave-like conditions prevailing since last week abate.

This came within hours of the school education department issuing two circulars, one addressed to the ICSE council and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the other to the heads of state-aided schools. All state-aided schools were asked to suspend classes for 11 days from June 20, but the circular to the two Delhi-based boards was worded more like a request than a directive.

The ICSE council convened a meeting in Delhi to take a decision almost immediately after receiving the circular.

“I received an email from the school education department of Bengal today requesting us to consider suspension of classes in the council-affiliated schools because of the extremely hot weather prevailing in Bengal. We have requested our schools in the state to comply with the state government’s circular,” Gerry Arathoon, the secretary and chief executive of the council, told Metro.

Schools in the Darjeeling hills needn’t follow the circular because they have a separate academic calendar. Students in those ICSE institutions get a short summer break and a much longer winter vacation.

The Mamata Banerjee government had extended the summer vacation in state-aided schools for three consecutive years beginning 2014, but this is the first instance of the ICSE council and the CBSE receiving an official circular requesting them to do likewise. In previous years, any such request to private schools would be verbally conveyed.

Education minister Partha Chatterjee had announced on Monday that all state-aided and sponsored schools would remain shut for 11 days from Wednesday. Private schools affiliated to the Delhi boards would be requested to do the same, he said.

Several private institutions in Calcutta have already declared a heat holiday while some have curtailed school hours. The junior section of St James’ School, an ICSE institution, will give over at 10.30am from Wednesday till the end of June. High school classes will be till 11am.

“We can’t close because we have so many programmes lined up. But if parents feel that the heat is unbearable, their children are free to stay at home and we won’t penalise them for their absence,” Terence Ireland, the principal of St James’ School, said.

Before the circular from the ICSE council arrived, Modern High School for Girls had decided to stay fully open and take some “temporary measures” to help its students cope with the heatwave-like conditions. The school is now likely to review its stand on Wednesday.

Calcutta Girls’ High School (ICSE), South Point High School (CBSE) and The Heritage School (ICSE) have cancelled some classes and curtailed the rest. Sushila Birla Girls’ School (CBSE) has declared a holiday for Nursery till Class IV. Students of classes V to XII will be taught in air-conditioned rooms.


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