Timing to buses: How schools in Delhi will reopen their doors after over a year

According to education department officials, a detailed SOP for this phase of re-opening will be issued by the department only after the DDMA’s order is issued.

Schools in Delhi can now re-open from September 1 for students of class IX to XII. This is set to be the biggest phase of school-reopening since they first closed in the nascent stages of the pandemic in March 2020.

Before this, schools had re-opened for exam-related activities for classes X and XII students in January and classes IX and XI in February, but all offline activities completely stopped again on April 9 with the start of the second COVID wave.

According to education department officials, a detailed SOP for this phase of re-opening will be issued by the department only after the DDMA’s order is issued. However, the expert committee constituted by the DDMA to plan for school re-opening had recommended an sOP which will form the basis of the final one by the department.

According to the committee’s SOP, what kind of staggered time table is to be followed in schools?

Heads of schools are to prepare time-tables according to the capacity of their classrooms and laboratories, with approximately 50% students of the classroom’s capacity to be seated in it. According to a school’s capacity and student strength, they may stagger the school schedule to avoid crowding in classrooms and at the school entry and exit. Schools may also stagger lunch breaks. Buildings from which double shift schools operate have to maintain a gap of at least one hour between the last group of the morning shift and the first group of the second shift. Students and teachers living in containment zones are not to be allowed to report to school. Only students with written parental consent will be allowed to schools.

There are many schools functioning as vaccination and ration distribution centres?

As of now, there is no direction to close them. The committee’s SOP has only recommended that the part of the school used for these activities be separated from the part which will be used for academic activities. “In this regard, directions should be issued to District Administration to cordon off the area demarcated for the Vaccination or Ration Distribution Center, make separate Entry/Exit for this purpose and deploy sufficient number of Civil Defense Volunteers to avoid mingling of students with the persons coming to Vaccination or Ration Distribution Centers,” it states.

Since many teachers are also involved in COVID related duties, the SOP has recommended that directions be issued to the District Administration that a minimum number of teachers be assigned to these duties on a rotational basis, and only with the approval of their heads of school.

Will school buses be operational to pick up and drop students to school?

The recommended SOP is silent on this and an education department official also stated that the department will not be issuing any directions on this. “The question of school-buses do not apply to all schools. It is for them to figure out whether or how they want to start the services, but the general understanding is that the same staggered approach and physical distancing needs to be maintained on buses as well,” the official stated.

Will there be any kind of counselling to prepare students for their return to campus?

The recommended SOP requires teachers to speak to every student to enquire about their well-being, and provide them emotional support as well as mentally prepare them to resume academic activities online. They are to try and understand the current academic levels of the students and “bridge the learning gaps to strengthen and recapitulate the foundational subject specific competency of previous class”.

What happens if a student or teacher displays symptoms at school?

For this purpose, all schools will be required to maintain a ‘quarantine room’ on campus. The recommended SOP also states that district and health department authorities may be directed to conduct random collection of samples of students and staff for COVID testing on a regular basis.

What about students of other grades below class IX?

The committee had recommended a three phase re-opening, with re-opening for classes IX to XII on September 1, and for classes VI to VIII on September 8. “After reviewing the situation in the two phases, the Directorate of Education may take the decision of opening the schools for Primary & Pre-primary classes in third phase,” its report had stated. However, while addressing the media, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia only spoke about the first phase with sources stating that this was because of “lack of consensus in the DDMA”.


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