The Union Ministry of Education on Monday issued guidelines for reopening of schools after October 15 during the Unlock 5 phase. The guidelines have been issued in accordance with the Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSEL).
As per the guidelines, schools and coaching institutions can open in a graded manner after October 15. However, the decision on whether to reopen educational institutions with States and Union Territories (UTs).
The Ministry said that States/UTs may adopt or adapt the standard operating procedure (SoP) as per local context and requirements.
"As per para -1 of MHA order no. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 30.09.2020 for reopening, States/UT Governments may take a decision in respect of the reopening of schools and coaching institutions after 15.10.2020 in a graded manner in consultation with the respective schools/institutions management and based on the local situation. For this purpose, States/UTs will prepare their own SOP regarding health and safety precaution for reopening of schools based on the SOP to the Ministry of Education, Government of India. States/UTs may adopt or adapt the SOP as per local context and requirements," the guidelines read.
According to DoSEL, the schools which are allowed to open must follow the guideline prepared by States/UTs education departments based on SOP issued by the DoSEL.
The guidelines for reopening of schools are comprised of two parts one is SOP for health, hygiene, and safety and another is learning with physical and social distancing.
The Education Ministry's guidelines further stated that the SOP for health, hygiene and safety include preparation the schools have to do before reopening such as proper cleaning and sanitisation of all parts of the school, provision for hand wash and disinfection, seating plan, safe transport plan, staggering of time table and classes, precaution at entry and exit points, and arrangements for safe residential stay at hostels and sensitisation of students, teachers, school authorities, school management committees, and parents.
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The SOP also provides for safety protocols to the followed after the opening of schools such as maintaining physical/social distancing norms by keeping a minimum 6 feet gap between each other, wearing of masks at all times in the classroom, laboratory and play areas, maintaining hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette and screening before entry into the school and students may attend schools only with the written consent of parents.
The guidelines further stated that there will be flexibility in attendance norms and students may opt for online classes rather than physically attend school.
The SOP also emphasises on following the health protocols as advised by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Moreover, precautions to be taken for preparing and serving mid-day meal in schools are laid down in the SOP.
"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 upto 2-3 weeks of school reopening and Use of ICT and online learning shall continue to be encouraged."
The SOP also lists out the role and responsibility of the State/UT Education Departments, school heads, teachers, parents and guardians and how to carry out capacity building of different stakeholders.
Lastly, a checklist for a safe school environment, as adopted from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), guidelines, is provided for schools parents, and students to contain the spread of COVID-19.