FOLLOWING THE Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) September 30 order asking state/UT governments to take a decision on gradual re-opening schools and coaching institutions outside containment zones after October 15, the Punjab secretary (school education) has written to the state’s additional chief secretary (home affairs & justice) recommending that schools in Punjab be allowed to reopen for classes IX to XII for three hours a day.
Sources in the education department said that a final decision is likely Thursday during a Covid review meeting to be chaired by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
The letter (copy with The Indian Express) states: “Where number of students are more, teachers may be called in two shifts of three hours. All safety measures/sanitisation will be adhered to. The minimum distance between one student and another shall be as per the SOP issued by health department. On an average there will not be more than 20 students in a section to attend classes. No two students should be allowed to sit on the same bench and the minimum distance between two benches shall be adhered to. The other protocols like using sanitisers, wearing masks etc shall be adhered to…”
A spokesperson of the education department said, “We have submitted these comments to the home affairs department and now it is on the government to take a final decision. However, even after opening of schools, online education will continue for students who won’t be able to attend class due to any reason.”
Punjab School Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla on Wednesday said that the education department has given its suggestions to the home department, and a final decision regarding reopening of schools will be taken by the CM after reviewing all precautions regarding safety of students.
In a press communiqué, Singla said that in response to the comments on reopening of certain activities in school from October 15, sought by the Department of Home Affairs & Justice Punjab, the Secretary School Education has apprised about the safety measures to be ensured in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier on September 20, in the partial modification of Unlock 4.0 guidelines in compliance with directives of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Punjab government had allowed students of classes IX to XII to visit their schools in areas outside containment zones on a voluntary basis to take guidance from their teachers, but only after written consent from their parents.
On September 30, the MHA had in its order said that states/UT governments can take decision on reopening of schools and coaching institutions in graded manner, in consultation with respective school/institute managements. The MHA order further said that online/distance education shall continue to be the preferred mode of teaching and shall be encouraged. Where schools are conducting online classes, and some students prefer to attend online classes rather than attending school physically, they may be permitted to do so. Students may attend schools/institutions only with written consent of the parents. Attendance must not be forced and must depend entirely on parental consent. States/UTs will prepare their own standard operating Procedure (SOP) regarding health and safety precautions for reopening of schools/institutions based on the SOP to be issued by the department of school education and literacy, Ministry of Education, Government of India. Schools which are allowed to open will have to mandatorily follow the SOPs.
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