Since September 1 to November 14, the Center has formulated a proposal for reopening schools and other academic institutions in a phase-wise approach.
The disciplines of the programme were addressed by the group of secretaries, led by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who is affiliated to the Covid-19 Management Group of Ministers. The announcement is expected to be told as part of the new unlock instructions to be released later this month that will direct states after August 31 to enable the remaining operations. Sources said the final decision on reopening schools and whether and when to get the students back to the schools will be left to the state governments.
For reopening schools and academic facilities, broad standard operating procedures ( SOPs) will be released. It follows a short survey that the school education department conducted earlier in July. While the survey showed that parents are not in support of sending their children to schools, state governments have argued that students from economically disadvantaged parts are struggling.
A senior official, who was part of discussions about reopening schools, said, “The state, where caseloads have been low, have also expressed their keenness to bring back students of senior classes.”
The regulations, which were reviewed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Ministry of Health, suggest that schools be opened and run in a phased way. Class 10 to 12 students will be asked to attend classes for the first 15 days. Different sections of a class would have specific days for school attendance.
In a school, if there are four sections in Class 10, half of the students in Sections A and C would come on specific days, and the rest on other days. The number of physical visits would be limited from 5-6 to 2-3 hours. All classes are expected to work in phases — 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., with a one-hour break for sanitation in between. The schools will be recommended to operate on teaching staff and students’ 33 per cent capacity.
Debates within the secretarial group reflect that the government is not in favour of calling students from pre-primary or primary school to school and instead continue online classes. After introducing physical classes for Class 10 to 12, it would be advisable for the schools to start physical schooling for Class 6 to 9 with limited hours. If a school has several sections, it will divide the classes and allow the schools to use the main section to divide out senior students. “We have studied the way countries like Switzerland have brought back children to school safely. A similar model would be employed in India,” the official said.
North-Eastern states, the hill states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and the UTs may be in a position for reopening schools and educational institutions. Sources indicated that the Centre would recommend it and state govs may take a final decision seeing the COVID-19 caseload and the popular opinion of school managements and parents.
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