Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday gave his nod to a proposal to start schools in a phased manner across the state, prompting the Education department to release instructions on the same, including a detailed standard operating procedure (SoP) on how the plan would be rolled out.
All schools have been shut since the beginning of the lockdown in March.
According to a 11-page government resolution issued by the state Education department, which includes details on tentative dates for reopening and preparations to be taken by schools, teachers, parents, district officials and others, in the first phase, physical classes may resume for Class IX, X and XII in July.
The expected dates for Classes VI to VIII to resume are in August, and for Classes III to V in September.
Resuming Class I and Class II will need approval from school management committees, while Class XI can be started after declaration of Class X results and completion of admission procedure.
There are a set of conditions for actual resumption of classes, such as there should be no Covid-19 cases in the particular village or district for a month before the classes resume.
Acknowledging that the pandemic poses unprecedented challenge before academicians, the GR asks them to reinvent traditional modes of classroom teaching. It asks teachers to make use of digital learning and focus on online teaching, keeping future emergencies in mind.
The SOP released for various stakeholders details what needs to be done before school reopens. For example, school management committees have been asked to hold a meeting and decide on the actual schedule for reopening of schools. Before reopening, schools have to be sanitised, and measures to ensure social distancing and conditions have to be taken.
While resuming physical classes, schools will either have to run in shifts or use alternate days to call students. Students cannot be in school for more than three hours and social distancing norms like one metre distance, one student per bench, wearing masks and hand washing, among other steps, need to be followed.
Schools have to ensure that the school premises is sanitised properly, especially often-used and touched things like door handles and taps.
While online teaching is not allowed for Classes I, II and kindergarten, they can be recommended educational content on radio or TV. There is also a cap on the number of hours when online teaching is allowed for other age groups, such as a maximum of one hour of online teaching for students from Class III to V, two hours for Class VI to VIII and maximum three hours for students of Class IX onwards.
For schools that had been used as a quarantine facility, both school management committees and local Zilla Parishad or district officials have been asked to carry out proper sanitisation and issue a certificate about the building being fit for holding classes.
In districts, villages or talukas where Covid-19 cases are high or which have been declared as containment zones, local disaster management committees at municipal corporations or district collectorates will have to decide the schedule for reopening of schools.
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