Health Ministry Issues Guidelines For Partial Reopening Of Schools For Classes 9-12 On Voluntary Basis
A health worker dresses in personal protective equipment (PPE) as he prepares to work at a Covid-19 testing site in the courtyard of a school in Newl Delhi. (Photographer: T. Narayan/Bloomberg)

Health Ministry Issues Guidelines For Partial Reopening Of Schools For Classes 9-12 On Voluntary Basis

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India’s health ministry has issued guidelines for partial reopening of schools of students of classes 9 to 12, who require teachers’ help on a voluntary basis, from Sept. 21.

Written consent of the students’ parents or guardians will be required and such visits for teacher-student interactions must be organised in a staggered manner, the guidelines stated.

According to the guidelines, a seating arrangement has to be made to ensure a distance of 6 feet between desks and the teaching faculty will ensure that they themselves and students wear masks throughout.

“Sharing of items like notebook, pens/pencil, eraser, water bottle etc. amongst students should not be allowed. Cafeteria/mess facility, if any within the premises, shall remain closed,” the guidelines stated.

For ensuring queue management inside and outside the premises, specific markings on the floor with a gap of 6 feet may be made.

Similarly, physical distancing shall also be maintained in staff rooms, office areas including reception area, and other places such as mess, libraries, cafeterias, etc.

Weather permitting, outdoor spaces may be utilised for conducting teacher-student interactions, keeping in view the safety and security of students and physical distancing protocols, the guidelines said.

The concerned teaching and non-teaching employees (up to 50% of the staff) may be called to schools for online teaching or tele-counselling work.

“Installation and use of the Aarogya Setu App may be advised wherever feasible,” the guidelines said.

Appropriate backup stock of personal protection items like face masks, visors, hand sanitisers etc. shall be made available by management to the teachers and employees, it said.

“Provide an adequate supply of thermal guns, alcohol wipes or 1% sodium hypochlorite solutions and disposable paper towels, soap, IEC materials on Covid. Pulse oximeter to check oxygen saturation levels of any symptomatic person must be arranged,” the guidelines stated.

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The guidelines also call for ensuring regular counselling for students and teachers reporting mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. It is advisable that teachers, school counsellors and school health workers should work in unison to ensure emotional safety of the students, it said.

Entrance should have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions.

For conduct of skill-based training in workshops/laboratories, a floor area of 4 square metre per person should be made available for working on equipment or work stations.

Cleaning and regular disinfection of frequently touched surfaces (door knobs, elevator buttons, hand rails, chairs, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) to be made mandatory in all classrooms, laboratories, lockers, parking areas, other common areas etc. before the beginning of classes and at the end of the day, the guidelines stated.

"All employees who are at higher risk i.e. older employees, pregnant employees and employees who have underlying medical conditions to take extra precautions. They should preferably not be exposed to any front-line work requiring direct contact with the students," the guidelines said.

If transportation facility is being managed by the school, proper physical distancing, sanitisation of buses or other transport vehicles shall be ensured.

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Prior to resumption of activities, all work areas intended for teaching/demonstrations etc., including laboratories, other common utility areas shall be sanitised with 1 per cent sodium hypochlorite solution, with particular attention to frequently touched surfaces.

Schools that were used as quarantine centres will be properly sanitised and deep cleaned before partial functioning is resumed.

In case a student, teacher or employee develops symptoms, the ill person should be in a room or area where they are isolated from others and the nearest medical facility should be informed.

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