NEW DELHI: All government and private schools can reopen in Delhi from September 1 with the students of Classes 9 to 12 being allowed to come first. Colleges and coaching centres have also been allowed to resume functioning from that day.
All these educational institutions will have to follow strict Covid-19 norms and ensure a 50% cap on the number of students. The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) took this decision on Friday but a government notification is awaited.
Significantly, no student can be forced to attend school or college and parents who do not wish to send their children can opt for online classes. Henceforth, schools will adopt a blended approach i.e. have both online and physical teaching.
DDMA on Friday approved the recommendation of an expert committee that schools for all classes must be opened in a phased manner in the wake of significant improvement in the Covid-19 situation.
Classes 6 to 8 may be allowed to reopen from September 8, and after reviewing the situation, a decision about allowing primary classes to be resumed will be taken.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a tweet that with coronavirus cases falling, schools are being gradually reopened in Delhi with full precautions so that the loss in education of children can be reduced. “We also have to bring life back on track and take care of both health and education of the children,” he said.
“It was emphasised that adequate preparedness in school, strict enforcement of SOPs and daily monitoring should be undertaken to avoid any spread of infection,” said LG Anil Baijal, who is the DDMA chairman. The meeting was attended by Kejriwal, deputy CM Manish Sisodia, health minister Satyendar Jain, chief secretary Vijay Dev, Niti Aayog’s V K Paul and AIIMS director Randeep Guleria. It was decided at the meeting that not only teachers and other staff but the drivers and conductors of school buses must also be vaccinated, overcrowding in buses and vans must be avoided and markings must be made at the entry and exit points of the schools and other educational institutions to ensure there is no crowding at the entrance.
An official said only one student will be allowed to sit on a bench or desk meant for two.
Since students will remove their masks during lunch break, DDMA suggested that lunch should be organised in the open and the duration reduced to 15 minutes. It was suggested that the schools must increase the number of wash basins and all wash basins must have liquid soap. All educational institutions will have to follow the same norms.
The students will be advised not to share their books, lunch and stationery items. Classrooms will be sanitised regularly and provision of thermal scanners made. The schools will also be asked to have a quarantine room and visits by guests will be discouraged.
DDMA suggested that an extensive campaign must be carried out to make parents aware of the risks and the steps to be taken to ensure the safety of their children.
The Delhi government will now put up a proposal before the LG for his final approval. Once that is received, an order will be issued by the chief secretary allowing educational institutions to reopen. A DDMA order will be issued before the end of the month along with SOPs.
Announcing the reopening, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, said, “Experts believe that the learning which happens at school cannot take place at home and that too online. Everyone believes that due to Covid, education has suffered a lot. So, a decision has been taken that schools, colleges and coaching centres will reopen in Delhi with all precautions.” He added: “There has been a massive loss of learning in the last one and a half years.”
“No child should be forced to come to school, which means that schools will function in a blended mode. In that case, the child will not be marked absent,” said Sisodia, addressing a digital press conference. He pointed out that there were very few states that are not in favour of reopening now.
The Delhi government has in the past one month conducted several drives all over the city to vaccinate teachers. “About 98% of government school teachers and all school staff in Delhi have received their first dose and we are administering the second dose as well. Private schools have also reported that a large number of their staff have been vaccinated,” said Sisodia.