Chandigarh, October 15:

School Education Minister, Punjab Mr. Vijay Inder Singla, on Thursday, said that Punjab Government has decided to reopen schools in the areas outside containment zones from October 19 for students of class 9th to 12th. The cabinet minister informed that as the home department has issued guidelines for the reopening of schools in areas outside containment zones, the school education department has also issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure safety of the students. He added that detailed guidelines on reopening of schools have also been sent to district education officers and school authorities for precise implementation while allowing students to attend physical classes.

Mr. Vijay Inder Singla said that after reopening schools, safety of the students will be the utmost priority of their government and a special team of officers of education department will be formed to implement SOPs in the schools. He informed that though the schools were being reopened but the online/distance learning shall continue to be the preferred mode of teaching and attendance of all students will not be mandatory. “As the schools are already conducting online classes, and some students prefer to attend online classes rather than physically attend school, they may be permitted to do so. The students will be able to attend the physical classes only with the written consent of parents,” the minister said.

Mr. Vijay Inder Singla informed that the parents should also ensure that their ward going to school will be wearing a mask and made them aware not to exchange masks with others. He added that the parents should also encourage their ward to wear full-sleeved clothes to minimize the interaction with any public surface.

The education minister said that the schools will open for three hours a day for students and only students of classes 9th to 12th will be called in school. No student of any other class will be called in the school. He added, “If the strength of the students is large in the school and social distancing norms are not maintainable, in that case School Head/ Management may take a decision whether to hold the classes in two shifts or call the students at alternate days, at their own level.”

Mr. Singla said that the staff and students belonging to containment zones shall not attend the school and other educational institutions. He added that as per the recommendations of MoHFW, older, pregnant and other employees who have underlying medical conditions to take extra precautions, should preferably not be exposed to any frontline work requiring direct contact with the students. He said that the authorities will also ensure foot operated hand washing facilities in the schools and ensure availability of key supplies like contactless thermometers, disinfectants, soaps, etc., and arrange for availability of these essentials. He added that they will also ensure sanitization of school transport before plying and also ensure social distancing while transportation of students.

The education minister said that the schools will mark the seats of students in classrooms ensuring distance of minimum 6 feet and similarly, social distancing shall also be maintained in the staffrooms, office area, hostels and other places of public interaction. He added that the schools will also ensure installation of posters/messages/stickers and signage at appropriate places reminding students about maintaining social distancing. He said that the schools will not undertake events where social distancing will not be possible. However, school assembly may be conducted by the students in their respective classrooms or outdoor spaces or other available spaces and halls under the guidance of the class teacher.

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