The Education Ministry released guidelines on Monday for reopening schools, which included thorough cleaning and disinfection of premises, flexibility in attendance, no assessment for up to three weeks and ensuring smooth transition from home-based schooling during COVID-19 lockdown to formal schooling. It also asked states and union territories to frame their own Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for health and safety precautions based on their local requirements.
"Schools must arrange and implement for thorough cleaning and disinfecting of all areas, furniture, equipment, stationery, storage places, water tanks, kitchens, canteen, washroom, laboratories, libraries, on school campus and ensure air flow in indoor space," the ministry said in a set of guidelines for gradual reopening of schools from October 15.
"Schools may be encouraged to make their own SOPs based on the guidelines issued by states and UTs, keeping in view the safety and physical or social distancing norms, and ensuring that the notices, posters, messages, communication to parents in this regard are prominently displayed and disseminated," it said.
The ministry recommended that schools adopt flexible attendance and sick leave policies. "Flexible attendance and sick leave policies may be developed and implemented to encourage students and staff to stay at home when sick. Students may attend schools only with the written consent of parents. Students may opt for online classes rather than physically attend school.
"There shall be no assessment up to 2-3 weeks of school reopening and use of ICT and online learning shall continue to be encouraged," it said. Universities and schools across the country were ordered shut on March 16 to contain the spread of the coronavirus. On March 25, the Centre announced a nationwide lockdown.
While several restrictions have been eased gradually in different phases of "Unlock" since June 8, educational institutions continue to remain closed. However, as per the latest unlock guidelines, schools, colleges and other educational institutions can reopen outside containment zones after October 15. The decision on whether to reopen educational institutions has been left with states and union territories.
"Schools should ensure smooth transition of students from home-based schooling during lockdown to formal schooling. Schools can implement re-adjusted school calendar and redesigned Annual Curriculum Plan (ACP), remedial classes or conduct back to school campaign among other steps," the guidelines said.
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