India is in Unlock 4 phase where the Government is steadily opening everything starting from weekly markets, food courts, Metro and now schools. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Tuesday has released a notice to partially reopen schools for students of class 9th to class 12th on a voluntary basis. With this, the Ministry has also issued Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for schools to follow from September 21, 2020, as the schools reopen from this date.
It is important to note that students of class 9th to class 12th are allowed to attend the school under the guidance of their teachers. Moreover, they require written consent from their parents/ guardian to attend classes. They will always have an option to attend the classes remotely/ virtually or physically on a voluntary basis subject to parents permission.
Schools that are located outside the containment zones are allowed to open. To re-open the school, all the states and UT are expected to abide by the COVID-19 guidelines that were earlier issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. These include the use of face cover/ masks, frequent handwashing with soap for at least 40 to 60 seconds, use of alcohol-based sanitizer for at least 20 seconds. It is mandatory for the teachers, students and school employees have to mandatorily use the Arogya Setu App. MOHFW has recommended that there should be 06 feets distance between teachers and students.
Only 50% of the staff including the teaching and non-teaching employees will be called to schools for online teaching/ tele-counselling. There will be no assemblies, sports, events that may lead to overcrowding at the school premises. Air-conditioned classrooms should maintain the temperature between 24-30 degree, as suggested by the SOPs. Apart from this, school authorities have to ensure that their should be proper arrangement of ventilation in classrooms. It is mandatory for the school authorities to get the schools sanitized properly before they get open, with 1% sodium hypochlorite solution. Special attention should be given to frequently used areas such as doorknobs.
On the entry gate of the school, it will be mandatory for all to sanitize hand, undergo thermal screening. All the teaching materials, laptops, computers, printers and other under school property shall be disinfected using 70% alcohol wipes. Those who are sick with fever, cough or any other disease are suggested not to visit the school to avoid any further spread of infection.
Moreover, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also advised schools to conduct regular counselling for students and teachers regarding the mental health issue such as depression and anxiety. Also, it is advisable to create awareness amongst students to follow these guidelines not only inside school premises but also when they are out.