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New Delhi: Following Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya’s declaration on August 25 that all school teachers should be vaccinated on a priority basis before teacher’s day (September 5), schools across the country are set to reopen with the appropriate COVID-19 protocols in place.
September 1 is the date set by most states to allow students to return to classrooms and there are several common points to note across the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) put out by most states. These include social distancing measures, mandatory masking and sanitising, staggered timings and so on.
However, there are minor differences in the exact COVID-safety measures schools in each state will have to take.
In Delhi, schools will be reopening for students from grades 9-12 as will colleges and coaching centres. The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on Monday which laid out the various safety protocols which would need to be ensured by the institutions, the Indian Express reported.
As such, students will be met at school entrances with a thermal scanner and hand sanitiser as well as school personnel ensuring that their masks are being worn properly. Parents have been urged to keep their children at home if they are showing any COVID-19 symptoms and children showing symptoms while at school will be taken to a quarantine room.
To ensure social distancing, classrooms will only be filled to 50% capacity, alternate seating will be ensured and class timings will be staggered with different students attending morning and evening sessions. There will also be a mandated gap of one hour between the two sessions. Moreover, even lunch timings will be staggered.
School buses and other vehicles will need to be sanitised regularly and the vaccination of bus drivers, as well as any other personnel on board, will have to be ensured.
However, students will require the written permission of their parents or guardians to attend school and those who are not comfortable with physically attending classes will be allowed to carry on in the online mode.
Other states are also reopening in a phased manner and only classes 9-12, for now, will be allowed to attend classes in Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Puducherry, LiveMint reported.
Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin, after a meeting with top government officials in the state, announced that schools and polytechnics will reopen as planned on September 1 but, given the COVID-19 situation in the neighbouring Kerala, students travelling from there would need to be vaccinated and carry RT-PCR tests. Hostels for students and staff will be permitted to function with the requisite COVID-19 protocols in place, as reported by the Hindu.
The Tamil Nadu government also announced that school (from classes 9-12) and college students will be allowed to travel to their respective institutions on transport corporations for free without a bus pass.
Rajasthan will also maintain the 50% capacity rule inside classrooms and restrictions will be imposed on assembly prayers, sports activities and the provision of distributing mid-day meals. Additionally, all teachers and non-teaching staff (including bus and minicab drivers) will be required to have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the Hindu reported.
Puducherry will also only permit classrooms to be occupied at 50% capacity while instituting separate morning and evening sessions, similar to Delhi.
Madhya Pradesh will be opening schools for grades 6-12, with the state’s education minister Inder Singh Parmar declaring that the decision for other grades would be taken later.
In Telangana, students from all grades (from kindergarteners to Master’s students) will be permitted to attend, yet the 50% capacity rule will still be in force.
Assam, which had earlier planned to reopen schools on September 1 along with several other states, made the decision on Monday to hold off on the decision citing certain health concerns. A senior education department official told the Times of India that, with 500 daily cases in the state, the COVID-19 situation does not look encouraging and the government is “in no mood to take risks with the health of school students.”