Health Ministry issues fresh guidelines for partial reopening of schools

The SOP, enforceable from Sept 21, are meant for Class IX to Class XII students, and stress limiting crowding at schools

Schools
Representative photo: iStock

The Union Health Ministry has come out with a detailed standard operating procedure for partial reopening of schools for students of classes 9 to 12 on a voluntary basis. This will be allowed from September 21, the Ministry said, stressing that online mode of education should be encouraged.

These guidelines, issued on Tuesday (September 9) by Directorate General of Health Services, come at a time when India went past Brazil to become the country with the second highest number of COVID infections in the world.

Apart from general preventive measures such as ensuring physical distancing, use of face masks and sanitizers, and a ban on spitting, these guidelines spell out steps for students as they prepare to attend classes. These include allowing students to come to schools on a voluntary basis – this will entail written consent of parents and guardians. These student-teacher interactions must be organized in a staggered manner, as per the guidelines.

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“If transportation facility is being managed by the school, proper physical distancing, sanitization of buses/other transport vehicles (with 1% sodium hypochlorite) shall be ensured,” the ministry said.

Following are the guidelines which parents and students can look at:

* Only schools outside containment zones will be allowed to open while students and teachers living in containment zones won’t be allowed to return to campuses.

* Entrances to have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions. Multiple gates/separate gates, if feasible, should be used for entry and exit.

* Sharing of items such as notebook, pens/pencil, eraser, water bottle etc. amongst students should not be allowed.

* Anyone developing symptoms while at school will have to be isolated in a separate area. In case of a student, the parent or guardian will need to be informed. A risk assessment exercise will then have to be conducted, and the entire premises sanitised if the individual tests positive.

Related news: As schools get ready to open, parents wary of sending children

* These guidelines will also apply to skill or entrepreneurship institutions, higher educational institutions conducting doctoral courses and post graduate studies.

* The teaching and non-teaching employees (up to 50 % of the strength) may be called to schools for online teaching/tele-counseling and related work.

* Students from class 9 to 12 will have the option of attending the classes remotely/virtually or physically only on a voluntary basis for guidance from their teachers subject to written permission of parent/ guardian.

* Instead of biometric attendance alternate arrangements for contactless attendance shall be made by the school administration.

* At all times, the teachers and students shall maintain a physical distancing of 6 feet apart, wherever feasible. Scheduling of activities and seating plan shall be made accordingly.

* Ensure hand washing facilities along with provision of soap.

* For ensuring queue management, inside and outside the premises, specific markings on the floor with a gap of 6 feet may be made.

* Similarly, physical distancing shall also be maintained in staffrooms, office areas (including reception area), and other places (mess, libraries, cafeterias, etc.)

* Weather permitting, outdoor spaces may be utilized for conducting teacher-student interactions, keeping in view the safety and security of students and physical distancing protocols.

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