When are schools reopening?
The Union government has permitted the reopening of schools in phases after October 15. However, the actual timing and manner of reopening will be decided by individual states.
This means what students actually experience will vary depending on where they go to school.
For instance, Delhi has decided against bringing back students until the end of the month, despite the union government’s go-ahead. Uttar Pradesh, on the other hand, has announced a phased reopening, but has left the final decision to the districts, based on the local Covid-19 situation.
So, do younger children go back to the classroom first, or do the older ones?
This too, has been left to the discretion of the state governments.
According to senior officers in the Education Ministry, the union government had already indicated its preference last month, when the Home Ministry permitted senior students of Classes 9 to 12 to meet their teachers in schools voluntarily.
However, if a state were to decide to bring back the youngest students first, the Education Ministry will not interfere, a senior officer told The Indian Express.
What is the union government’s stand on attendance?
The Education and Home Ministries have categorically said that students will not be forced to attend classes in school.
“Attendance must not be enforced, and must depend entirely on parental consent,” the Ministry’s guidelines for reopening states. Those who choose not to go back to school can attend classes online. For schools that lack an ICT-enabled environment, teachers are expected to interact with students and parents on the phone about “on-going learning in the class and keep track of students through interview mode”.
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What would school life look like amid the pandemic?
Even if parents decide to send their children to school, they will not be going every day. Attendance could be rotational, on alternate days, or every two days.
On the days a student is at home, she will be asked to self-study chapters that are “essential but conceptually easier to understand”.
In case of high enrolment numbers, schools can explore running in two shifts “by reducing time duration of school hours per shift, such that the school is able to manage with the same set of teachers in the overall school hours”.
When in school, the wearing of masks will be compulsory for students, teachers and staff. All students will have to follow a strict hand hygiene routine, and will sit six feet apart in classrooms.
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Sharing of notebooks, food and toys amongst students will be prohibited. Classes would be held outdoors on days when the weather is pleasant.
If possible, school bags for students of lower primary classes (I to V) will be discouraged and all necessary learning material may be kept in the classroom.
As far as possible, parents will be encouraged to use their personal transport to drop children to school. Aged teachers and staff, and those living in containment zones will not be allowed to come in.
What about assessments?
According to the Education Ministry’s guidelines, for at least two to three weeks after reopening, schools will not conduct any assessment. Even when they do, the pen-and-paper text format will be discouraged for students across all grades to “ensure emotional well-being of the students”.
“Assessments in the form of role plays, choreography, class quiz, puzzles and games, brochure designing, presentations, journals, portfolios, etc., may be preferred over routine pen-paper testing,” the Education Ministry’s guidelines state.