Schools to re-open from Feb 1 with SOPs for COVID precaution

Students of elementary classes to attend schools from Feb 8
Nishikant Khajuria
JAMMU, Jan 22: After remaining closed for around 11 months, all the schools in Jammu and Kashmir shall re-open with effect from February 1, 2021, however, with strict compliance of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for COVID precaution.
A formal order in this regard was issued today by the School Education Department, according to which, all the schools, including recognized private institutions, shall physically re-open in a staggered manner for the academic activities.
The academic activities for class 9th to 12th in Summer Zone area schools of Jammu division shall commence from Ist February while in case of elementary classes, teachers shall attend the school with effect from Ist February for preparation and the students shall physically attend classes from February 8.
Schools in Kashmir Division and Winter Zone areas of Jammu division, which are observing winter vacations, will open as per their schedule.
Pertinent to mention that all schools in Jammu and Kashmir are lying closed since March 2020 because of COVID pandemic across the country, including the J&K Union Territory. Even as option was later given to the students of 9th to 12th standard for attending the schools, it was on voluntarily basis and hence the response was almost zero, particularly in urban areas.
In the order for re-opening of schools, the Government makes it clear that SOPs for COVID precaution shall be followed in letter and spirit in addition to suggestion of District Management Authorities for ensuring safety of the students.
As per the SOPs, sharing books, notebooks, pencils, pens and other items among students and teachers should be strictly prohibited while everyone in the school should maintain physical distance of at least two meters from each others
The students can sit almost two meters apart from each other and in case of non-availability of such space, staggered schedule/shift timings and student rotation can be an option.
“All students and teachers should wear masks while hand washing points with proper soap should be made available for all. In case of absence of washing stations, hand sanitizers of standard prescribed by Government be used as hand rub for staff and older children,” read the order, adding that disinfecting the learning space and surfaces should be a daily affair.
Reiterating that students and teachers should maintain physical distance of at least two meters from each other and no one should breach this distance rule either during the schooling or while coming or leaving the school, the order further says that in all case, gathering or grouping should be avoided and everyone should come and leave school individually. The school authorities should also limit any non-essential visitors, volunteers and activities involving external group in the school, added the order.
Head of Institutions and school staff should be well abreast with the procedures if students or staff becomes unwell. Besides, the school authorities should also ensure there is space to temporarily separate sick students and staff without creating stigma. The schools shall share procedures in this regard with staff, parents and students besides advising all sick students and staff to remain home.
To keep students reminding of COVID related precautions, the schools have been asked to regularly organize COVID precaution related quiz, debates, drawing competitions etc while Director Schools Education, Jammu/Kashmir will strengthen counseling facilities for the needy students.
For the ownership of the initiative, the Government order says that a local committee needs to be framed per school comprising parents, VEC members, SMC members and other prominent persons from the habitation for monitoring and support of the school.