Schools in non-containment zones are permitted to reopen today i.e. October 19, 2020, across the country. However, they are to ensure strict COVID-19 norms and social distancing protocols within and outside school premises. Earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had issued guidelines and Social Distancing Protocols (SOPs) pertaining to the reopening of schools. MHA had also given a nod to reopening of schools after October 15, 2020, in a graded manner. However, the final decision to reopen schools shall lie with the concerned state governments and administrations of Union Territories.
Schools, colleges and educational institutes were forced to shut and take-on the virtual path from March 16, 2020. As India’s economy opens up in a staggered manner, states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Sikkim have gradually resumed normal classes. However, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh reporting a high number of COVID cases have decided to not to reopen schools till October 31, 2020.
In Uttar Pradesh, schools outside containment zones have reopened today for standards 9 to 12. Classes shall be conducted in shifts, abiding by all social distancing norms and sanitization procedures issued by the government. Students shall only be allowed to attend school after getting prior, written permission from their parents/guardians. Students of classes 9 and 10 shall be attending school in the first shift and those of classes 11 and 12 shall attend school in the second shift. Only 50% students shall be allowed in each class. The remaining 50% students are allowed to attend school the next day. 6 feet distance has to be maintained at all times. As these procedures are being implemented, UP government is also encouraging online/virtual education and online teaching.
The state of Punjab is also following the same precautionary measures as UP. Schools which are allowed to open in the state have to mandatorily follow the SOPs issued by the respective school education departments. Online education is also being encouraged and students are allowed to attend school only after seeking prior permission. Sikkim government has decided to reopen all schools in a gradual manner. This year, schools have to do away with winter vacation to complete the school curriculum on time. Classes will be held six days a week with Saturday being a half-day for students. The state government has also devised a new academic calendar to tackle the problems created by the pandemic. According to this calendar, students of classes 11 and 12 are permitted to attend school only after prior permission and written consent from their parents/guardians.
The Education Ministry of India issued a set of guidelines on October 5, 2020 pertaining to reopening of school after October 15, 2020. These guidelines were released as part of the Unlock 5 phase. Schools and coaching institutes shall be allowed to open after October 15, 2020 in a phased manner. However, the final call shall be taken by the state governments and administration of UTs.