The Education Ministry on Monday, October 6, released a detailed list containing the guidelines for reopening of schools and colleges in the country.
Under Unlock 5.0, the Centre has allowed schools and colleges to restart in a graded manner, starting from October 15, only with the consent of the parents. However, the states/ Union Territories can decide when to reopen schools and coaching centres.
The guidelines include permission to the students to attend classes on a voluntary basis. Such students would require a consent slip from their parents to visit the schools from next week. Physical distancing must be maintained at schools and students and teachers must wear face masks.
Coronavirus preventive measures including thorough sanitisation and hygiene activities to be implemented which includes cleaning and disinfecting of all areas, furniture, equipment, stationery, storage places, water tanks, kitchens, canteen, washrooms, laboratories, libraries, etc. on the school campus and ensure airflow in indoor space.
The Ministry stated that schools may be encouraged to make their own SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) based on the guidelines and should keep the safety/ social distancing norms on priority. The institutions need to ensure that notices, posters or message communication to the parents in this regard are prominently displayed.
Schools are allowed to make and follow an alternative calendar of activities for the whole year. The education institutions can plan and strategize the changes in the academic calendar, particularly the breaks and the examination schedules.
Institutions have been asked to form Task Teams such as Emergency Care Support/Response Team, General Support Tea, Commodity Support Team, Hygiene Inspection Team with certain responsibilities. While planning the seating arrangements, the authorities must maintain social distancing. The schools are advised to follow staggered entry and exit timings or separate exit and entry gates to enable physical distancing.
To meet the nutritional requirements of children and safeguard their immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic, States / UTs have been advised to provide hot cooked Mid-Day Meal or its equivalent Food Security Allowance to eligible children during the closure of schools and summer vacations.
"Academic aspects related to teaching-learning and assessment with a focus on learning outcomes are redefined including revision of academic calendar and preparation of comprehensive academic plan. An alternative academic calendar of NCERT may be followed. Assessment should be learner-friendly and involving different formats rather than pen-paper test. No assessment till up to 2-3 weeks of school reopening and Use of ICT and online learning shall continue to be encouraged," read the statement.
PRAGYATA guidelines on online education can be used to orient students and teachers. "If the state has energised textbooks, inform students and parents how to download the e-content," the ministry added.
Among other important points, the Ministry mentioned that flexible attendance and sick leave policies may be developed and implemented to encourage students and staff to stay at home when sick.
Also, immediate and appropriate actions need to be taken as per the protocol defined in case of detection of a suspected case of COVID-19.
The guidelines also state that focus should be given on the most vulnerable students (including the homeless/migrated students, students with disabilities, and students directly affected by COVID-19 pandemic through a family death or hospitalization) to prioritize their needs.
To reduce the burden on the students, the guidelines have stressed that schools will not conduct any assessment for at least two to three weeks after reopening. It further added that pen-and-paper text format will be discouraged for students across all grades to "ensure the emotional well-being of the students".
The teachers, school counsellor and school health workers should work in unison to ensure the emotional safety of their students during the transition of students from home-based learning to formal schooling. 'MANODARPAN' covers a wide range of activities to provide psychosocial support to students, teachers and families for Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing during the COVID outbreak and beyond.
Schools and colleges have been shut since mid-March when a national lockdown was imposed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.