Marking a significant step, Maharashtra government has issued the SOPs and guidelines to reopen all schools for offline classes from December 1 in urban and rural areas, officials said, even as a threat of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron has just emerged.
The guidelines, issued late on Sunday in continuation of School Education Minister Prof. Varsha E. Gaikwad announcement on November 26, has mandated physical distancing, face-masks, hygiene and other guidelines as schools gear up to welcome the students back.
Earlier on October 4, the schools were thrown open for students in higher Classes 8-12 in urban areas and 5-12 in the rural areas, eliciting a good response with smooth handling reported by the schools.
Emboldened by the exercise and the fall in the number of cases and fatalities, the state will reopen Class 1-7 in urban and 1-4 in rural areas from Wednesday.
Besides, if any students found with any symptoms, they will not be permitted to enter the school campus/premises, all schools must keep clean with regular sanitisation, all must wash/sanitise their hands frequently to keep away infection risks.
If at any time, more than five students test Covid-19 positive within a fortnight, the local authorities would review the school’s preventive measure and decide accordingly.
For the time being, schools have been advised to avoid biometric attendance systems and use alternative ways, avoid crowds like assembly, prayers, games, etc., and ‘quartet students’ must be granted access to online education.
Setting an optimistic tone, Prof. Gaikwad said that drawing from the earlier experience of reopening schools, the feedback from officials and school authorities, the going would be smooth and safe from December 1.
“From December 1, children as young as 6 years old will set foot in schools once again. Their safety and wellbeing is our priority. Reviewed preparedness for this phase of schools reopening with municipal commissioners, Zilla Parishad CEOs, Deputy Directors of Education and other district level officers,” said Prof. Gaikwad.
The development comes days after the state government lifted all lockdown norms on November 27 to pre-pandemic levels even as the new risk of Omicron was thrown up, raising questions on the future course of action.