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Centre Issues SOPs for Reopening of Schools for Classes 9-12 on Voluntary Basis from September 21

Image for representation only

Image for representation only

Only schools outside containment zones will be allowed to open. Students, teachers and employees living in containment zones will not be allowed to attend.

Disallowing sharing of notebooks, pens/pencils, water bottles, etc, among students, prohibition of assemblies and sports, encouraging online learning, entry of asymptomatic persons are some of the guidelines from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for the partial reopening of schools for students of classes 9-12 from September 21 on a voluntary basis.

However, the written consent of students' parents or guardians will be required and such visits for teacher-student interactions must be organised in a staggered manner.

According to the SOPs, seating arrangement has to be made to ensure a distance of six feet between chairs and desks and the teaching faculty will ensure they and students wear masks throughout the conduct of the teaching/guidance activities.

"Sharing of items like notebook, pens/pencil, eraser, water bottle etc. amongst students should not be allowed. Cafeteria/mess facility, if any within the premises, shall remain closed," the SOPs stated. For ensuring queue management inside and outside the premises, specific markings on the floor with a gap of six feet may be made.

Physical distancing will be maintained in staff rooms, office areas including reception area, and other places such as mess, libraries, cafeterias, etc. Weather permitting, outdoor spaces may be utilised to conduct teacher-student interactions keeping in view the safety and security of students and physical distancing protocols, the guidelines said.

The concerned teaching and non-teaching employees (up to 50% of the strength) may be called to schools for online teaching/tele-counselling and related work. "Installation and use of the Aarogya Setu App may be advised wherever feasible," the SOPs said.

Appropriate back-up stock of personal protection items like face covers/masks, visors and hand sanitisers will be made available by management to the teachers and employees, it said. "Provide an adequate supply of thermal guns, alcohol wipes or 1 per cent sodium hypochlorite solutions and disposable paper towels, soap, IEC materials on COVID. Pulse oximeter to check oxygen saturation levels of any symptomatic person must be arranged," the guidelines stated.

The guidelines also call for ensuring regular counselling for students and teachers reporting mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. It is advisable that teachers, school counsellors and school health workers should work in unison to ensure emotional safety of the students, it said. Entrance should have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitiser dispenser) and thermal screening provisions.

For conduct of skill-based training in workshops/laboratories, a floor area of 4 square metre per person should be made available for working on equipment or work stations. Cleaning and regular disinfection (using 1 pc sodium hypochlorite) of frequently touched surfaces (door knobs, elevator buttons, hand rails, chairs, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) to be made mandatory in all class rooms, laboratories, lockers, parking areas, other common areas etc. before beginning of classes and at the end of the day, the guidelines stated.

"All employees who are at higher risk i.e. older employees, pregnant employees and employees who have underlying medical conditions to take extra precautions. They should preferably not be exposed to any front-line work requiring direct contact with the students," the guidelines said. "If transportation facility is being managed by the school, proper physical distancing, sanitization of buses/other transport vehicles (with 1% sodium hypochlorite) shall be ensured. Prior to resumption of activities, all work areas intended for teaching/demonstrations etc., including laboratories, other common utility areas shall be sanitised with 1% sodium hypochlorite solution, with particular attention to frequently touched surfaces."

Schools used as quarantine centres will be properly sanitised and deep cleaned before partial functioning is resumed. In case a student/teacher/employee develops symptoms, the ill person should be in a room or area where they are isolated from others and the nearest medical facility (hospital/clinic) should be informed.