The Maharashtra School Education department on Tuesday announced a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) ahead of the reopening of schools in the state from November 23. Schools will reopen only for classes IX to XII.
Students of classes IX to XII will attend school on alternate days to ensure a 50 per cent attendance ratio, according to the guidelines. A school day will span not more than four hours and no lunch break will be given to students.
At all times during school hours, students will be required to wear masks, and no one apart from staff and students will be allowed inside the premises. Everyday thermal screening will be done for all students and teachers, the guidelines say.
Even as written parental consent is mandatory before allowing students to return to schools, attendance will not be compulsory, according to the guidelines. Students will be given a choice to study full time from their homes. Online and offline timetables will be prepared by each school to ensure that core subjects such as Maths, Science and English are taught physically whereas the rest of the subjects are taught in online mode. Maharashtra State Council for Educational Research and Training will form guidelines for the assessment of academic progress of students.
Moreover, only those hostels that house international students have been given the nod to start. In an effort to support mental health, the department has said counselling facilities should be available for students and teachers who report mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
Commenting on the SOPs, School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad said four lectures of 40 minutes each will be held and the local administration has been informed to follow all health and safety guidelines.
“Schools have been reopened to facilitate direct interaction with teachers and experience learning with one’s batchmates. However, taking care of students is everyone’s responsibility. Students who are ill or live with an ailing family member should not attend school as a precautionary measure. As per recommendations by experts in Maharashtra state board, for Class X and XII written board exams will be conducted. There is an understanding that the board exams will be delayed this academic year. Taking into consideration the geographical conditions of different regions, exams may be conducted in May, since it is necessary to conduct them at the same time,” she said.
Before schools begin, all teaching and non-teaching staff have been mandated to undergo RT-PCR test between November 17 and 22 and submit the report to the SMC (school management committee). Those teachers who test positive will attend school only after a nod from the doctor. Moreover, forming various groups involving students and teachers for the purpose of emergency services, cleanliness maintenance among other things has been advised.
Inside a school, at places that can attract crowds and are used for standing in queues, spots should be marked at a distance of six feet from each other. Separate entry and exit points, as well as schedules for using them, should be made. There will be a difference of 10 minutes between the start and end time for each class in order to facilitate this, the department clarified. Moreover, no more than four students should assemble in school premises, and there will be restrictions on the number of people who can stand on the verandah or inside lifts. While facility for clean and safe drinking water will be made, students should be encouraged to carry their own water bottles, the guidelines stated.
Hosting of routine events, get-togethers, sports and other programmes that can attract crowds has been banned. Parents and teachers meetings will also be held online.
At the school, it has been mandated to arrange facilities for washing hands. Those isolation centres that are presently housed in schools should be shifted to alternate areas and schools should be sanitised before handing it over to school management committees. If it is not possible to shift isolation centres, schools should either be conducted in open spaces or at alternate locations, the guidelines said.
Mumbai Principals Association secretary Prashant Redij said, “The government has, as usual, imposed all responsibility on the school management committees. From a medical and financial point of view, the participation of the government in implementing this was required.”