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Schools to reopen with 'voluntary' clause for class IX-XII from Sept 21

New Delhi: In an attempt to regularise the classes that were closed due to COVID-19 pandemic, the Health Ministry has allowed the opening of schools for students of class IX-XII from September 21.

As per the standard operating procedure (SOP), issued by the Health Ministry, only schools outside the containment zones would be allowed to open and it will be voluntary in nature and not mandatory as students would be permitted to visit their school only after the written consent of their parents.

"Assemblies, sports and events, which can lead to overcrowding, are strictly prohibited in the schools that are opting to start operations. The government also said that online or distance learning would continue to be permitted and it should be encouraged," the guidelines stated.

Further, students, teachers and employees living in containment zones will not be allowed to attend school. Students, teachers and employees would also be advised not to visit areas falling within containment zones and schools that were used as quarantine centres will be properly sanitised and deep cleaned before partial functioning is resumed.

As per the SOP, only asymptomatic persons (teachers, employees and students) will be allowed in the school premises and if a teacher/employee/student is found to be symptomatic, he/she should be referred to the nearest health centre.

As the instances of mental health issues have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, the SOP has stressed on ensuring regular counselling for students and teachers reporting mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

"It is advisable that teachers, school counsellors and school health workers should work in unison to ensure the emotional safety of the students, it said.

Sharing of items like a notebook, pens/pencil, eraser, water bottle, etc. amongst students wouldn't be allowed, while seating arrangement to ensure a distance of 6 feet between chairs, desks, etc, guidelines stated.

Schools have also been told to arrange appropriate back-up stock of PPE items such as masks, visors, hand sanitizers, etc and it should be made available by management to the teachers and employees.

The guidelines further stated that up to 50 per cent of the strength of the concerned teaching and non-teaching employees may be called to schools for online teaching/tele-counselling and related work.

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