Thiruvananthapuram: Schools in Kerala, remained closed since the imposition of coronavirus lockdown in March, reopened partially on Friday, marking a new beginning in the education sector, but strictly in compliance with COVID protocols.
This is to help more than 7 lakh students studying in classes 10 and 12 in 3,118 high schools and 2,077 higher secondary schools with their studies for the public exams.
The classes for 10th and 12th standards began with limited hours and restricted number of students.
Attendance has not been mandatory for the students. However, parental consent is necessary for students attending the schools. The emphasis in schools will be on revision and doubt resolution of lessons that have been completed through digital classes in an attempt to help the students prepare for the public examinations.
State Health Minister K K Shailaja said here on Thursday that the academic year, which comes at a time of COVID pandemic, should be dealt with confidence but caution.
"Students should not be afraid to go to schools. The government has made all arrangements," she said, urging everyone to strictly follow the guidelines issued by the health and the educations departments.
A recent high-level meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, had decided to reopen the educational institutions, including schools and colleges, in adherence with COVID guidelines.
As of Wednesday, Kerala has over 65,000 active COVID-19 cases as it has been reporting fresh infections in large numbers in recent months.
In its guidelines, the General Education Department has directed that only 50 per cent of students be allowed at a time in schools and that classes be arranged as one student per bench in the first week.
It is better to allow 25 per cent of the students at a time in schools, where their strength exceeds 300 in number in classes 10 and 12, according to the guidelines issued by the Director of Public Instructions (DPI).
In the detailed instructions given, the authorities have asked the school managements to ensure masks, sanitizer, digital thermometer and soaps in their institutions.
Students should be asked to maintain a distance of two meter between each other and classes may be conducted in shifts of limited hours if necessary, it said.
Articles in classes should be disinfected every two hour and children should be admitted in classes only with the consent of parents.
As per the present plan, the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) and Higher Secondary (HSC) second year board exams would be held from March 17 to 30 in strict compliance with COVID protocols.
The digital classes for class 10 would be completed by January 15, and for class 12 within January 30.
At the college level, graduate and post-graduate classes and classes at the Universities of Agriculture and Fisheries would also begin early January with limited number of students.
It was also decided to start classes from second year in medical colleges, official sources added.
• Class, via social media, for students who are unable to come to school.
• The classes should be fixed in two phases - three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon.
• A shift system can be followed, if needed.
• Students should avoid eating food together. They should also refrain from sharing food, water or other materials used for school activities.
• The door handles of the classrooms, desks, and dusters should be sanitised every two hours.
• Facilities for medical checks should be arranged for children and teachers, if needed.
• Safe distance should be mandatorily maintained in school vehicles. Thermal checks should be carried out before entering the vehicles. Masks are also mandatory.
• Counselling must be given if children need mental support. Differently-abled students should be given special care.
• In the case of children who need special attention, the service of the resource teachers can be utilised to go to their homes and help in studies, if needed.
• COVID cell led by the headteacher must be formed in all schools. The cell should comprise the ward member, health inspector, PTA president, and representatives of the teachers and students. The cell should meet once in a week to ensure that the safety guidelines are followed.
• A school-level plan must also be prepared. Sick room must be set up to monitor children with COVID-19 symptoms. There should be first-aid kits as well. Daily reports must be submitted to the healthcare workers.
• The safety arrangements in the school must be discussed in staff council and PTA, and this information must be conveyed to the parents during online class PTA meetings.
• The situation will be assessed and necessary changes will be introduced a week later.
• The First Bell classes through the Victers channel will continue. Students who go to school can see the repeat telecast of the online classes in the evening every day through Victers.