As schools in Tamil Nadu gear up to reopen exclusively for Class X and Class XII students from January 19, the state government has issued a comprehensive Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to them, to ensure they follow strict health and safety measures.
Some of the key features of the SOP include a mandatory letter of consent from parents for students to attend the school; online classes to be offered as an alternate mode of learning by all the schools, with students having to submit a letter from their parents before they opt for the distance learning mode of education. The SOP issued by the TN chief secretary K Shanmugam stated that students willing to study from home rather than physically attend school may be allowed to do so with the consent of their parents. Attendance must not be enforced and must depend entirely on parental consent, the SOP stated.
The schools will have to make suitable arrangements to monitor the progress of the learning outcomes of online students. They will not have more than 25 students in a class, and will function for six days a week to complete the syllabus on time. Private school managements meanwhile can reopen their schools after submitting a written consent to the concerned regulatory authorities.
The SOP laid down other precautionary measures such as the compulsory use of masks by all the teachers, students and school staff inside and outside the school premises. A minimum of six feet distance has to be always maintained between people, and gatherings like assemblies, sports and cultural events are to be avoided. All the students will also be given vitamin tablets and zinc tablets issued by the Health Department.
The decision to reopen schools for classes X and XII has been taken after extensive discussions with district collectors, public health and medical experts and senior ministers and from opinions received from parents in January this year.
In fact, the school education minister, K A Sengottaiyan had recently told the media in Erode that 97 % of the parents wanted the schools to be reopened. The TN government then took the decision to start with reopening Class X and Class XII in the first phase.
However, the schools have to follow some exhaustive instructions on maintaining health, safety and hygiene protocols before they reopen. Most importantly, health profiling and screening of students and staff will be conducted. Information from students, teachers and other staff (health profiling) should be collected in the form of a self-declaration regarding their health condition and a health check-up by a team of doctors shall also be arranged to screen for diseases/ailments and co-morbidity conditions, the SOP maintained.
Further, the schools are also required to disinfect the entire school premises and the furniture before the reopening day, and they have to provide soap and water and sanitisers for hand wash; and ensure they have sufficient supplies for monitoring Covid-19, such as thermal scanners, disinfectants, pulse oxymeters etc, according to the SOP.