Following in the footsteps of states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and neighbouring Puducherry, Tamil Nadu is all set to reopen schools for students in Class 9-12 from September 1 onwards while ensuring that COVID-19 protocols are in place.
While the state health department has issued a set of standard operating procedures to be followed during school hours, the government has suggested schools to allow 50 per of students to attend physical classes in staggered class timings.
The health department has mandated all schools to ensure availability of soaps, hand sanitiser and equipment like thermometres on premises and adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour by students and staff including wearing of masks, maintaining of 6 feet distance between seats and avoiding functions, congregations and even parent-teacher meets.
School managements have been asked to sanitise the entire premises including classrooms, furniture, equipment and areas like canteens and libraries.
The SOP says only one student should to be seated per bench, while similar physical distancing must be maintained between staff in staff rooms, office rooms and other places of interaction. It also encourages teachers to take outdoor classes if the weather is pleasant.
The government directive strictly prohibits the entry of students and staff hailing from containment zones while stressing that those attending school should be fully vaccinated.
Older staff, pregnant employees and those having underlying medical conditions have been asked to take extra precautions.
The SOP says posters, stickers and signage should be put up at appropriate places to remind students about maintaining physical distancing inside classroom, library, washroom and drinking water station among other places. A ban on spitting would be strictly enforced.
To ensure physical distancing and avoid overcrowding of students, the government has recommended schools to follow a staggered timetable for different classes.
“Asking only 50 per cent of the students to attend the school depending on the enrolment, rotationally on alternate days or every two days in a week and combining with home assignments could be another mechanism,” the SOP said.
Suggesting schools to follow an odd-even timetable, the government said schools with high enrollment can be run in two shifts of trimmed school hours.