Health Ministry issues SOP for partial reopening of schools

The partial opening of schools would be allowed from September 21.

The Union ministry of Health and Family Welfare on September 8 issued a standard operating procedure for partial reopening of schools for students of class 9 to 12 on a voluntary basis for taking guidance from their teachers. 

The partial opening of schools would be allowed from September 21. The SOP includes generic measures and specific preventive measures to be followed before and after opening the schools.

The generic preventive measures which are to be observed by all teachers, employees and students includes physical distancing of at least six feet as far as feasible, mandatory use of face covers/masks, frequent hand washing with soap (for at least 40-60 seconds) and use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (for at least 20 seconds) wherever feasible.

Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed involves strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing with a tissue/handkerchief/flexed elbow and disposing off used tissues properly.

Self-monitoring of health by all and reporting any illness at the earliest, installation and use of Aarogya Setu App may be advised wherever feasible and spitting shall be strictly prohibited.

All schools (with classes IX to XII) shall specifically ensure that online/distance learning shall continue to be permitted and shall be encouraged. Students of class nine to twelve shall be permitted to visit their school on voluntary basis for taking guidance from their teachers and it should be subject to written consent of their parents/guardians.

Before opening up of the school, visits to the schools and teacher – student interaction must be organized in a “staggered manner”. Schools outside the containment zones only shall be allowed to open. Further, students, teachers and employees living in containment zones will not be allowed to attend the school.

Students, teachers and employees shall also be advised not to visit areas falling within containment zones. Prior to resumption of activities, all work areas intended for teaching/demonstrations etc., including laboratories, other common utility areas shall be sanitized with 1 percent sodium hypochlorite solution, with particular attention to frequently touched surfaces.

Schools that were used as quarantine centres should be properly sanitized and deep cleaned before partial functioning is resumed by following guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for disinfection of common public places including offices.

The concerned teaching and non-teaching employees (up to 50 percent of the strength) may be called to schools for online teaching/tele-counselling and related work. Students from class 9-12 will have the option of attending the classes remotely/virtually or physically only on a voluntary basis for guidance from their teachers subject to written permission of parent / guardian.

Instead of biometric attendance, alternate arrangements for contactless attendance shall be made by the school administration. At all times, the teachers and students shall maintain a physical distancing of six feet apart, wherever feasible. Scheduling of activities and seating plan shall be made accordingly.

Hand washing facilities along with provision of soap should be ensured. For ensuring queue management, inside and outside the premises, specific markings on the floor with a gap of six feet may be made. Similarly, physical distancing shall also be maintained in staff rooms, office areas (including reception area), and other places (mess, libraries, cafeterias, etc.)

Weather permitting, outdoor spaces may be utilized for conducting teacher student interactions, keeping in view the safety and security of students and physical distancing protocols. Assemblies, sports and events that can lead to overcrowding are strictly prohibited. The school should display State helpline numbers and also numbers of local health authorities etc. to teachers /students / employees to contact in case of any emergency.

For air-conditioning/ventilation, the guidelines of CPWD shall be followed which emphasizes that the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30 Degree Celsius. Re relative humidity should be in the range of 40-70 percent and intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate.

Lockers of students will remain in use, as long as physical distancing and regular disinfection is maintained. Gymnasiums shall follow Ministry of Health and Family Welfare guidelines. Swimming Pool (wherever applicable) shall remain closed.

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

Integrated Government Online Training, online modules training course on ‘basic awareness on COVID may be undertaken by all employees and students during online interactions or guidance sessions on the first day.

Appropriate back-up stock of personal protection items like face covers/masks, visors, hand sanitizers etc. shall be made available by management to the teachers and employee.

Adequate supply of thermal guns, alcohol wipes or 1 percent sodium hypochlorite solutions and disposable paper towels, soap, IEC materials on COVID should be provided. Pulse oximeters to check oxygen saturation levels of any symptomatic person must be arranged. Availability of sufficient covered dustbins and trash cans must be ensured.

Provision for proper disposal of used personal protective items and general waste should be in accordance with guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board. Housekeeping employees should be informed and trained about norms for waste management and disposal.

Entry points should have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions. Multiple gates/separate gates, if feasible, should be used for entry and exit.

Only asymptomatic persons (teachers, employees and students) should be allowed in the premises. Any teacher/employee/student is found to be symptomatic should be referred to the nearest health centre.

Posters/standees on preventive measures about COVID-19 should be displayed prominently. Proper crowd management in the parking lots, in corridors and in elevators – duly following physical distancing norms shall be organised.

Entry of visitors should be strictly regulated/ restricted by conducting guidance activities in the rooms or open spaces within the school campus. Seating arrangements will be made to ensure a distance of 6 feet between chairs and desks etc.

Staging of guidance activities should be done, with separate timing slots to allow for adequate physical distancing and disinfection of classroom premises. The teaching faculty will ensure that they themselves and students wear masks throughout the conduct of the teaching/guidance activities.

Sharing of items like notebook, pens/pencil, eraser, water bottle etc. amongst students should not be allowed.

For practical activities in laboratories, maximum capacity per session based on redesigned spaces, may be planned and scheduled accordingly. It should be ensured that the equipment has been disinfected, particularly the frequently touched surfaces before and after each use.

Square area of 4metre square per person should be made available for working on equipment/workstation. It must ensure that members sanitize their hands before and after using training equipment. For such purpose, hand sanitizer should be provided at workstations/simulation labs etc.

For activities in common areas like library, mess/canteen, common rooms, gymnasium etc. physical distancing of 6 feet needs to be maintained. Persons using the common areas need to use mask/face cover all the time. Cafeteria/mess facility, if any within the premises, shall remain closed.

If a transportation facility is being managed by the school, proper physical distancing, sanitization of buses/other transport vehicles (with 1 percent sodium hypochlorite) shall be ensured.

In order to maintain hygiene and sanitation, daily cleaning of the floors shall be taken up. Provision of soap in toilets and hand sanitizers in other common areas in sufficient quantity must be ensured.

Cleaning and regular disinfection (using 1 percent sodium hypochlorite) of frequently touched surfaces(door knobs, elevator buttons, hand rails, chairs, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) should be made mandatory in all class rooms, laboratories, lockers, parking areas, other common areas etc. before beginning of classes and at the end of the day.

Teaching materials, computers, laptops, printers, shall be disinfected with 70 percent alcohol wipes and deep cleaning of all drinking and hand washing stations, washrooms and lavatories shall be ensured.

 Students and employees should be advised to dispose of used face covers / masks in separate covered bins placed in classrooms, work stations and other common areas. The same may remain stored in the bins for three days and disposed of as dry general solid waste after cutting/shredding.

 Students should not be involved in any of the cleaning activities for health safety reasons. Awareness should be created to ensure the students do not gather when leaving the school and in their free time.

 Students, parents, teachers and employees should be sensitized to create awareness on COVID appropriate behaviour, as instructed under generic measures. If a student, teacher or employee is sick, they should not come to the school and follow necessary protocols.

Regular counselling should be ensured for students and teachers reporting mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Teachers, school counsellors and school health workers are advised to work in unison to ensure emotional safety of the students.

In case a student/teacher/employee develops symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty in breathing), they shall be placed in a room or area where they are isolated from others and inform parents/guardians as the case may be. Patients should remain isolated while wearing a mask/face cover till such time they are examined by a doctor.

The authorities should immediately inform the nearest medical facility (hospital/clinic) or call the state or district helpline. The designated public health authority shall undertake risk assessment and accordingly further action should be initiated regarding management of case, their contacts and need for disinfection. Disinfection of the premises should be taken up if the person is found positive.

First Published:Sept. 9, 2020, 11:11 p.m.