The Health Ministry today issued Standard Operating Procedure, SOPs for partial reopening of schools for class 9 to 12 from 21st of this month on voluntary basis. Disallowing of sharing of notebooks, pens or pencils, water bottles among students, prohibition of assemblies and sports, encouraging online learning, entry of asymptomatic persons are some of important points of the guidelines.
It said, however, written consent of the student’s parents or guardians will be required and such visits for teacher student interactions must be organized in a staggered manner. According to the guidelines, a seating arrangement has to be made to ensure a distance of 6 feet between chairs, desks etc and the teaching faculty will ensure that they themselves and students wear masks throughout the conduct of the teaching or guidance activities. If there is cafeteria or mess facility within the premises, it shall remain closed.
For ensuring queue management inside and outside the premises, specific markings on the floor with a gap of 6 feet may be made. Similarly, physical distancing shall also be maintained in staff rooms, office areas including reception area, and other places. The guidelines said, weather permitting, outdoor spaces may be utilized for conducting teacher-student interactions, keeping in view the safety and security of students and physical distancing protocols. The concerned teaching and non-teaching employees up to 50 per cent of the strength may be called to schools for online teaching or tele-counselling and related work.
The guidelines further said, installation and use of the Aarogya Setu App may be advised wherever feasible. It said, appropriate back-up stock of personal protection items like face covers or masks, hand sanitizers etc shall be made available by management to the teachers and employees. Adequate supply of thermal guns, alcohol wipes or 1 per cent sodium hypochlorite solutions and disposable paper towels, soap, IEC materials on COVID-19 should be provided. Pulse oximeter to check oxygen saturation levels of any symptomatic person must be arranged.
The guidelines also call for ensuring regular counselling for students and teachers reporting mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The SOPs said, it is advisable that teachers, school counsellors and school health workers should work in unison to ensure emotional safety of the student. Entrance should have mandatory hand hygiene sanitizer dispenser and thermal screening provisions. For conduct of skill-based training in workshops and 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 per cent sodium hypochlorite of frequently touched surfaces like door knobs, elevator buttons, hand rails, chairs, benches, washroom fixtures, will be made mandatory in all class rooms, laboratories, lockers, parking areas, other common areas, before beginning of classes and at the end of the day. The Guidelines said, all employees who are at higher risk like 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.
If transportation facility is being managed by the school, proper physical distancing, sanitization of buses or other transport vehicles with 1 per cent sodium hypochlorite shall be ensured. Prior to resumption of activities, all work areas intended for teaching or demonstrations etc., including laboratories, other common utility areas shall be sanitized with 1 per cent sodium hypochlorite solution, with particular attention to frequently touched surfaces. Schools that were used as quarantine centres should be properly sanitized and deep cleaned before partial functioning is resumed. In case a student or teacher or employee develops symptoms, the ill person should be in a room or area where they are isolated from others and the nearest medical facility should be informed.