One week before the reopening of the city’s schools for middle and upper-level students, school administrators are preparing campuses even as parents’ associations do not seem willing to send their children back to school in the middle of ‘a pandemic.
The state on Tuesday released a standard operating procedure (SOP) that stated that schools are not allowed to accommodate more than 20 students in a classroom, one student per bench, with a distance of at least six feet between benches, among others. The state has empowered civic bodies to make a decision on reopening physical courtyards based on the current Covid-19 pandemic situation in their city. State Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad announced last week that physical classes for grades 8 to 12 in cities and grades 5 to 8 in rural areas will resume on August 17.
In Mumbai and Thane, schools are putting protocols in place to ensure that if students return, appropriate Covid-19 behavior is observed. While some schools want to divide students into classrooms and broadcast a class on the web, others want to stagger attendance and use a hybrid teaching model. Others have started disinfecting the campus and installing mask bins and temperature controls at entry points. Still others are considering assigning a desk to each child for the remainder of the semester.
“In the international councils, classes 10, 11 and 12 are examinations of the council and already these pupils have suffered because of the absence of school lessons and practical lessons during a school year. Our schools have no more than 25-30 students per class and we have the infrastructure to ensure that students follow social distancing protocols at school, ”said Kavita Aggarwal, President of the Association of International Schools. of Mumbai (MISA) and director of the school DG Khaitan, Malade.
The headmistress of a school that follows the Central Council for Secondary Education (CBSE) who spoke on condition of anonymity said the school would divide students into separate classes. “We will use smart classrooms to ensure that everything taught by a teacher in one classroom is also passed on to other classrooms at the same time. Live interaction will also be made possible to allay student doubts, if any, ”she said.
“A strong health screening mechanism for all staff and students has been put in place, in which all who enter school premises will be carefully screened. The temperature will be monitored and a periodic self-health declaration before the recovery and regularly thereafter will be made. We will reopen our schools in accordance with regulations issued by the state government, ”said Jyotsna Mayadas, director of Euro School in Thane.
“Common areas within the school premises will have a distance marker or floor markings to ensure that social distance is maintained between students and staff at all times. Floor marking arrangements have also been made in the corridors and elevators. In addition, arrangements for the removal of masks have been made on school premises with adequate posters and banners to reinforce security procedures and policies, ”she added.
“We plan to split the class in half with 50% online presence and the rest at school; the concept of blended learning is being prepared so that none of the students miss out on classroom instruction. We plan to have only one child on each bench and have their name mentioned on it, which will make it a permanent seat; although sanitation will be carried out regularly, ”said Ranjna Jangra, principal of BK Birla school, Kalyan.
However, not all schools have the capacity to do this.
Public schools, which have more students per class, face a shortage of teachers to implement such plans. “With online classes 100-150 students can attend class together and one teacher can pay attention to everyone, but once physical classes start with social distancing standards in mind, we can’t have more. 25 to 30 students in a classroom. This means that a teacher will have to move from one class to another to teach the same subject to students of the same promotion, ”said the head of a public school, who chose to remain anonymous.
Meanwhile, parent groups are unwilling to resume physical classes, especially in cities where Covid-19 numbers are still being recorded. Arundhati Chavan, president of the United Parent-Teacher Association Forum, said the government should try pilot batches to understand the challenges physical classes pose to schools and students. “Who will be responsible if one or more students contract the virus?” ” she asked.
Most of the schools HT spoke with said they would follow parents’ lead despite the presence of POS. Meanwhile, students fear the change will come at the cost of disrupting their schedules.
Spruha Londhe, 14, a student at Delhi Public School, Nerul, said: “This is a very crucial school year for me as I am in grade 10; for the previous batch, it was the grades for the entire academic year that led to their final grades. We must therefore ensure consistent performance throughout the year. If we are to switch between online and offline courses, it will be difficult to adapt and maintain consistency in academics. ”
The headmistress of a Santacruz-based school that follows the Central Council for Secondary Education (CBSE) who spoke on condition of anonymity said the school would divide students into separate classes.
In November last year, the school education department issued a similar circular announcing the reopening of schools for grades 9 to 12 in a phased manner. In January 2021, another circular was issued ordering students in grades 5-8 to be returned to school in groups and to maintain Covid-appropriate behavior on campus. These two circulars, however, were revoked after Covid cases started to rise again and the state government called for another full lockdown from mid-April.