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Experts prepare guidelines for schools post-COVID era

May 16, 2020

Education experts from the Early Childhood Association (ECA) and the Association for Primary Education and Research (APER) have prepared a set of guidelines for preschools and day care centres to follow in the post-COVID 19 era. The 55-page guidelines document lists precautions to be taken by the institutions such as different seating arrangements, alternate day approach, staggered reopening dates for different classes and tweaking the vacation calendar. It also provides guidelines for training the staff, cleaning and sanitising the area, preparing parents and children and measures to de-stress school staff. The guidelines strongly recommend the admin team members to conduct the sanitisation process prior to school re-opening and have a pilot run with teachers.

The guidelines, conceptualised and created by Swati Popat Vats — founder-president ECA and APER and president Podar Education Network — in adherence with the latest order from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and UNICEF-UNESCO-WORLD BANK-Framework for reopening schools-April 2020, suggests planning of seating arrangements with children sitting on alternate chairs. The schools could also start school for different classes on different dates. It recommends to start with senior most level first and to give them a week to settle down, before starting the next level and so on. If schools are running in shifts, the guidelines recommend enough time to clean and sanitise the space before the kids for the next shift arrive.

Safety measures

Each school may also have a Safety Coordinator (from the existing staff) to assure the implementation of safety procedures and guidelines. Safety measures should also be followed in school buses if the schools are planning to resume transport service. Wearing face mask should be made mandatory and schools can keep an extra stock in case kids or staff forget to wear one. Identify hospitals/clinics near the school premises that provide covid-19 treatment. It should also be publically displayed and made available to staff at all times. Prepare a detailed protocols on hygiene measures, including handwashing, respiratory etiquette, use of protective equipment, cleaning procedures for facilities and safe food preparation practices. Provisions for hand sanitizer (atleast 60 percent alcohol) should be made at all the entry and exit points and common areas in sufficient quantities for all visitors walking into the centre.

Assessment of children can be done only by observation and it is okay for preschools to not assess children on behavioural and learning activities as keeping them safe and healthy is of utmost importance now. If there are children with any underlying health issues or special needs, schools could talk to the parents and see how they can continue to provide the support they need. The staff should download the Arogya Setu app and ensure the protocol is followed which include physical distancing measures, doing temperature checks, prohibiting activities that require large gatherings, staggering the start and close of the school day, staggering feeding times, moving classes to temporary spaces or outdoors, and having school in shifts to reduce class size.

Reworking on school transport
The school van driver and support staff to disinfect and sanitize the vehicle twice a day. Ensure that all children and staff of the bus are wearing masks and plan a well spaced seating arrangement. The pick-up and drop can be re-worked so that there are not too many children travelling together. Children’s temperature can be checked before picking them up. Ensure that there is a hand sanitiser available at all times in the bus. Make children use it as and when necessary.

Quarantine Room
The guidelines recommend schools to have quarantine policy and inform parents about it. The schools can have quarantine rooms where the sick students and staff can rest without any stigma. Ensure that the child who comes in sick or fall sicks in the facility is sent back home and they are kept separately until parents come to pick them up. Communicate to parents the importance of keeping children home when they are sick. Staff should not be allowed to work in the premises until they complete the home isolation period.

ECA has also prepared posters that the schools and day care centres can use for creating awareness on the safety guidelines to be followed in the premises. These signages can be downloaded here POST COVID GUIDELINES MANUAL FINAL 1 B .

Recommended: NCERT to revise 14-yr-old curriculum framework

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