Apart from the usual prescriptions on maintaining six feet distance among students with regulated seating plans and rules of engagement, staggered time tables have been suggested to regulate students numbers in schools.
The ministry suggests reduced timings- decreasing a class period’s duration from 45 minutes to 30 minutes besides asking only a certain percentage of the students to attend the school depending on the enrolment.
This can be done rotationally on alternate days, or every two days in a week and combining with home assignments could be another mechanism. Odd even formula for running classes besides running schools in two shifts have also been suggested in high enrolment schools.
The SOPs say that all classes need not attend school every day and a weekly class wise time table may be drawn up for attendance.
School bags are advised against- for children from classes 1 to 5.
Total school hours are suggested to divided between school and home school hours besides Number of hours spent on keeping physically and mentally healthy and Number of hours spent on creative activities related to art, and art-integration.
States have been suggested to rationalize curriculum into 3 components: Classroom lessons – which could include, essential topics that are conceptually difficult to understand, Self-learning lessons – which could include essential but conceptually easier to understand and third- areas that are not a part of the core area of curriculum or learning Outcomes – which could be kept aside this year.
Seeking greater flexibility for elementary schools, the Centre has also suggested that school boards may revisit the curriculum for secondary and senior secondary level.
School attendance and sick leave policies are to be ‘redefined’ with more built in flexibility and no enforcement of attendance.
In case of hostels, only higher classes are to be called in first, such students are to be kept at a distance and monitored for health as they arrive in and be provided good internet connectivity to be able to attend classes online as well.
Every school has to undergo deep sanitization ahead of the reopening from classrooms to kitchens, water tanks and school transport. Calibrated contact-less infrared digital thermometers have to be in place in every school as it readies for resumption of classes, say the SOPs.
No festival celebrations and school events which involve crowding are to be held. Online admissions, parent teacher meeting without children’s presence, school assemblies in large halls and even holding of classes in bigger halls has been advocated to maintain distance.
Besides, staggered entry and exit to school, the Education ministry has also suggested that parents pick and drop children wherever possible especially for classes 1 to 5. School buses with air conditioning are to be disinfected frequently and maintain 24-30 degree Celsius temperature
The rules of engagement for children within schools also stand to be changed radically. From signages and reminders on hand washing, —the SOPs advise that children bring home cooked food to school instead of school lunches and be asked not to share tiffin, water bottles, stationery and books- as is norm.
Teachers are to wear face covers/ masks while correcting written assignments of students and as far as possible online assignments may be encouraged.
Assessment formats are also set to see considerable change with the SOP clearly saying that ‘Typical pen-paper tests must be discouraged at all levels’ and formats in schools should look at role plays, choreography, class quiz, puzzles and games, brochure designing, presentations, journals, portfolios etc.
The SOPs focus considerably on re-integrating children into schooling after the lockdown, ensuring admission for children of migrants and displaced people and special attention to children with special needs.
While online classes are strongly advocated in the SOPs, NCERT’s alternative academic calendar for schools and children without access to devices are advocated where there is any kind of digital divide.