More than nine months after the lockdown was imposed due to Covid and schools were shut, the Punjab government on Wednesday announced reopening of schools and resumption of physical classes for students of Class 5 to 8.
Earlier, following the Unlock 5.0 guidelines of the central government, the Punjab government had allowed reopening of schools for Class 9 to 12 from October 15 onwards, for three hours a day only.
It will be after a gap of more than nine months that physical classroom teaching would resume for Class 5 to 8. However, students can attend physical classes only with consent from parents.
Punjab School Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla Wednesday said that following the persistent demand of parents, the state government has decided to reopen all government, semi-government and private schools from January 7 onwards. Singla said that the timings of the schools will be from 10 am to 3 pm and students from Class 5 to 12 will be allowed to attend physical classes in the schools. After government orders, the schools will now be free to pick a date to resume operations.
Singla said that while giving his nod, Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh directed them to ensure the safety of the children amid Covid-19 pandemic. He added that following the directions of the CM, all school managements have been asked to strictly comply with the directions of the government specially advisory issued by the health department to avert the threat of contraction of coronavirus.
The Cabinet minister informed that the Education Department had taken feedback from the school heads and besides ensuring safety of the children, they have also suggested the department to reopen the schools before the annual exams for final revision of the students.
“CM Amarinder Singh had launched ‘Mission Shat Pratishat’ while presiding over Smart Phone distribution event on November 7, last year. After announcement, the whole education department especially the school teachers, have been geared up to turn the vision of the CM into reality by putting in dedicated efforts at the cutting edge level,” said Singla.
Punjab Education Department also issued detailed guidelines for schools in areas outside containment zones to ensure safety of the students amid Covid-19. Singla the detailed guidelines on reopening of schools have been sent to all district education officers and school authorities for precise implementation while allowing students to attend physical classes.
Singla said that after reopening schools, the online/distance learning will also continue to be the preferred mode of teaching and attendance of all students will not be mandatory.
“As the schools are already conducting online classes, and parents of some students prefer to attend online classes rather than physically attend school, they may be permitted to do so. Students will be able to attend the physical classes only with the written consent of parents,” the minister added.
Singla informed that the parents should also ensure that their ward going to school will be wearing a mask and made them aware not to exchange masks with others. He added that the parents should also encourage their ward to wear full-sleeved clothes to minimize the interaction with any public surface.
The minister added, “If the strength of the students is large in the school and social distancing norms are not maintainable, in that case School Head/Management may take a decision whether to hold the classes in two shifts or call the students at alternate days, at their own level.”
Singla said that the staff and students belonging to containment zones shall not attend the school and other educational institutions. He added that as per the recommendations of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW), elderly, pregnant and other employees who have underlying medical conditions to take extra precautions, should preferably not be exposed to any frontline work requiring direct contact with the students. He said that the authorities will also ensure foot operated hand washing facilities in the schools and ensure availability of key supplies like contactless thermometers, disinfectants, soaps, etc., and arrange for availability of these essentials. He added that they will also ensure sanitisation of school transport before plying and also ensure social distancing while transportation of students.
The Education Minister said that the schools will mark the seats of students in classrooms ensuring distance of minimum 6 feet and similarly, social distancing will also be maintained in the staffrooms, office area, hostels and other places of public interaction.
He added that the schools will also ensure installation of posters/messages/stickers and signage at appropriate places reminding students about maintaining social distancing. According to the minister, schools will not undertake events where social distancing will not be possible. However, school assembly may be conducted by the students in their respective classrooms or outdoor spaces or other available spaces and halls under the guidance of the class teacher.
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