“How many students do we have no contact with at all?”; “Given the need for social distancing, how many students can be there in each classroom?”; “What should be the mix, if any, between online and classroom teaching?” — these are some of the questions for government schools in Delhi to start planning for an eventual re-opening.
All schools in the capital have been closed since mid-March, and have moved to online learning for the duration of the lockdown. Government schools are currently in summer vacation till June 30, but the Directorate of Education (DoE) has not given a date for when children will start returning to school.
However, on Tuesday, heads of all these schools received a set of questions from the DoE to initiate the process of planning for when they eventually re-open, so that this process can consider the individual challenges of the 1,040 schools run by the Delhi government. School heads have been asked to prepare a “micro plan” for their individual schools in consultation with teachers, parents and School Management Committee (SMC) members.
Delhi Education Minister Manish Sisodia also held a video meeting with heads of schools on Wednesday, asking them to formulate these plans. “The reason we are following an elaborate planning process is because we need to keep many factors in mind before taking a decision. It is not just about maintaining social distancing or sanitisation alone, or calling one set of classes to school and not the others. Any decision will have far-reaching implications on children and their families because school is an integral part of our social life. It is not just about learning a few lessons from the textbooks but the lessons of life itself. Therefore, any plan should keep in mind all possible situations,” said Sisodia.
The prime considerations schools have been asked to account for are tracking all students and bringing them back to school; emotional and trauma support; maintaining social distancing; and sanitisation.
The DoE also ordered all teachers to call their students to enquire about their well-being, whereabouts, and ask for feedback on remote learning.
Teachers The Indian Express spoke to underlined that this is the most important step towards discussing re-opening, especially in the light of lakhs of migrant workers leaving Delhi for their home states during the lockdown.
“In my class of 62 students, I have been able to contact 45 in the last week. Two of them are in their hometowns and they have told me that their families intend to return, so they can return to school. But these are class XII students, and the surety of return is less likely among younger children and their families. Among the rest, there are 12-13 students whose phones have been unavailable or switched off, and those are the children I’m most worried about,” said the teacher of a school in Northeast Delhi.
Among the questions schools have been asked by the DoE are how many students they have no contact with at all, and how many students they estimate will show up if school re-opens in July.
Schools have also been asked to assess how many classrooms they have and how many students of the school can attend every day, keeping in mind the need for social distancing.
The Indian Express had reported that the HRD ministry is likely to recommend that students in classes IX to XII return to school first.
“We will now need to look at our infrastructure in terms of new needs. This will have to differ from school to school – some have 600 students, some have over 2,000. We have some districts in which students already attend schools on staggered days because there are too many students for the infrastructure to handle. We have double-shift schools. A lot of monitoring will be required even to maintain distance between just 100 children,” said a senior teacher in another school.
Another feature the DoE is looking at is making online learning an integral part of teaching-learning even once schools start, something that Sisodia has emphasised on several occasions during the lockdown. Among the questions, schools have been asked to provide inputs on are how online teaching should continue to be used, and what the mix between online and offline teaching should be.
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