Schools which have been physically shut since mid-March due to the nationwide lockdown on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, can now be reopened in a limited manner starting from October 15, as per guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Education, Central Government of India, on Monday. As per the guidelines under Unlock 5.0, students are permitted to attend school strictly on a voluntary basis, only with a consent slip from their parents. The ministry has left it for the states and Union Territories to decide whether they want to reopen schools from October 15.
On Monday, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Union Minister for Education, tweeted the standard operating procedure (SOP) guidelines of the department of school education and literacy for reopening of schools. "States/UT Governments may take a decision in respect of reopening of schools and coaching institutions after 15th Oct in a graded manner. States/UTs to prepare their own SOP regarding health and safety precaution for reopening of schools based on the SOP to be issued by DoSEL, @EduMinOfIndia."
Among the guidelines, the education minister highlighted, "Students may attend schools only with the written consent of parents. There will be flexibility in attendance norms. Students may opt for online classes rather than physically attend school. No assessment till up to 2-3 weeks of school reopening. Use of #ICT & online learning shall continue to be encouraged."
All coronavirus preventive measures, such as maintaining social distancing, covering face with a mask or cover, washing or santising hands need to be strictly followed in schools. Thermal scanners, to check the body temperature of students and teachers, are mandatory at the school entrance.
Schools are encouraged to form task teams such as emergency care support, support or response, and hygiene teams 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 if feasible.
In addition, the central government has allowed schools to prepare an alternative calendar of activities for the academic year, with the flexibility to make changes in terms of breaks and examination schedules. The new plan may follow the guidelines of the alternative calendar prepared by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
The minister further stated, "Precautions to be taken for preparing and serving midday meal in schools. Checklist for a safe school environment, as adopted from @UNICEFIndia guideline is provided for schools parents and students, to contain the spread of Covid-19. States/UTs to prepare their own SOP regarding health and safety precaution for reopening of schools based on the SOP to be issued by DoSEL, @EduMinOfIndia. States/UTs may adopt or adapt the SOP as per local context and requirements."