Schools in Covid-free zones can start classes for Std VIII to XII

Clearing the confusion, the Maharashtra state school education department released a government resolution (GR) on Wednesday allowing schools in Covid-free zones to reopen offline classes for Class VIII to XII in a phased manner, starting July 15. The state has laid out various standard operating procedures (SOPs) and safety guidelines to implement the “Back to school” initiative.

The state school education department released a GR dated July 7, which states, “Schools in Covid-free zones in the state are permitted to reopen offline classes for Class VIII to XII in the first phase from July 15. However, the decision will be taken by local administrative authorities of the area after discussing with parents.”

Further, the department laid out SOPs and safety guidelines for reopening of schools. The GR said, “Schools are allowed to reopen offline classes only in villages where there has been no Covid positive case for more than one month. District education officers and Zilla Parishad (ZP) authorities should promote and conduct vaccination of all teachers and staff on priority.”

As per the SOP under the “Back to school” initiative, students will be called to school in batches. The GR said, “Maximum 15 to 20 students will be permitted to sit in one classroom. Students will be called in batches for example on alternative days or in the morning and afternoon batch. A gap of six feet should be maintained between two benches with one student seated per bench.”

Students should wear masks, maintain social distancing and sanitise their hands frequently in schools. Also, students who show Covid-19 symptoms will be sent home and subjected to immediate testing and assistance. Also, schools should arrange for accommodation of teachers if possible in the village and avoid commute by public transport as a precautionary measure.

Varsha Gaikwad, school education minister of Maharashtra, said, “A village-level committee headed by the Sarpanch will be responsible for the implementation of all protocols and SOPs. The chief executive officer of the local Zilla Parishad will supervise the operations and take regular reviews. We are reopening schools in Covid-19 free zones because there are some villages where students cannot access online education due to lack of internet connection, absence of digital technology and accessibility.”

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