With schools set to reopen from 21st September, a quick look at what you need to know
On August 29, 2020, when the government had announced a set of guidelines under Unlock 4.0, it had also given its consent for the partial reopening of schools from Sept 21. The move, however, comes with its own set of regulations.
All eyes are on schools right now. Based on their discretion, they will now decide how many school lessons or activities require the physical presence of students and teachers. Online lessons are being continued in most schools and nothing is likely to change on that front.
In the event of some students and staff returning to schools, the authorities shoulder a massive responsibility. After all, it is a question of safety. Schools will need to ensure that
students and teachers maintain the social distancing norm of six-feet at all times
they wash their hands frequently for 40-60 seconds
students and teachers wear a face mask at all times and gloves whenever necessary
they use an alcohol-based sanitizer wherever feasible
they cover their mouth whenever coughing or sneezing
any work areas or common areas are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, especially frequently touched surfaces. If a school was used as a quarantine center, then the premises has to be deep cleaned and sanitized before allowing students and staff inside.
The government has also advised that schools could ask for the Aarogya Setu App to be installed if needed.
Though the central government has declared so, the state of Maharashtra has put a hold on it till Sept 30. However, we have started planning for the same and are expecting 50% of students to report to the school.
As preparation, we have divided the entire school students’ strength into two batches. Each batch will report to school on alternate days to ensure physical distancing in the classrooms. Thermal temperature scanning, oximeter, and sanitization will be done before entering the school bus, and shoes will be sanitized before entering the school premises. Once students leave, the school will be sanitized every day and the staff will also be trained in these processes. We will continue to have a blend of online and offline classes. Those who wish to stay home will be provided with the option of online school.”(Mr.Pramod Tripathi, Headmaster, Ashoka Universal School)
What activities are going to resume?
Any activity that might lead to a large crowd- assemblies, sports, other events- will not resume any time soon. Schools with swimming pools will keep them closed. Cafeterias will also remain shut.
For commonly used areas, and for queue management, markings will be made so that students and staff can maintain social distancing. Labs, especially those that are used frequently will be sanitized frequently. Air-conditioned classrooms and labs will need to maintain a temperature between 24 and 30 degrees Celsius. Humidity will have to be 40-70 percent. The Ministry Of Home Affairs, however, has asked for students and staff to take in as much fresh air as possible and that there be cross-ventilation in all rooms.
In Maharashtra, schools are shut till Sept 30 and the government has not set a definite date for reopening. Whenever schools start, a dual system of online and physical classes will be followed. The school will follow all SOPs issued by the government diligently. We are already working on them. “ (Vinita Dsouza CEO/ Head of School, Trinity International School)
Students will be provided their own time slot to come into school and consult teachers. They must maintain adequate physical distance. As far as lab activity is concerned, students are required to sanitize their hands before touching anything.
How safe is this going to be?
The biggest concern that parents have expressed is that of the safety of their children. There is now an added responsibility on the part of schools to keep the premises clean and sanitized. They must clean their floors frequently and make hand wash and sanitizers available for all students who visit. In addition to that, they must disinfect frequently touched surfaces before and after the sessions.
“As of now, the government in UP has stalled the reopening of schools but we do expect at least 20% to 25% of our students to come to school for guidance, usage of the library, practical classes, and doubt clearing. There is a complete SOP that has been made and several pieces of training have been done. We have purchased thermal scanners, gloves, masks, sanitizers, and different equipment. The teachers and other staff will be trained and the campus will be made completely touch-free. Deep cleaning and sanitization will have to be done regularly. However, it is going to be difficult to stop students from maintaining social distancing from their friends whom they will meet after months. We have a full provision of online classes. The planning and time table for the same is underway but the mindset is to see that no child is left behind.” (Amrita Burman, Deputy Director, Sunbeam Group Of Institutions)
While these are the guidelines of the Ministry Of Home Affairs, it remains to be seen how effectively they can be followed. Another important factor to take into consideration is how parents will react to this situation. While it is true that spending hours in front of the screen has adverse effects, sending them to school during a pandemic is even more worrisome. Are parents willing to take that risk?
We have done a survey of 5000 parents and 84% of them want to send their children to school only after Diwali. 44% of them only want to send their kids the next academic year.
Online classes are the only hope for schools right now. Eventually, we will think about sanitization. We are conducting online classes since April for 7300 parents and all of them are regularly attending. The students are faring well in exams too and hence we feel learning is happening.” (Manan Choksi Executive Director, Udgam School For Children)
Can parents do something about this?
Ultimately, the decision to send their children to school rests with parents. Most schools understand this and have the provision of online lessons for students whose parents don’t want them to step out.
Apart from the safety precautions that schools are taking, parents can choose to take their own extra measures to feel safer. For instance, they could provide face shields to their children instead of just a face mask or even do something as basic as talking to their children about the dire consequences of being careless in this matter. It is now evident that it is up to us and this situation will take some time to change. At the end of the day, the need of the hour is to keep safe and take care of ourselves and our loved ones.