The Maharashtra government on Tuesday announced guidelines for conducting physical classes in schools in areas where the prevalence of Covid-19 is low.

The government has not specified a threshold below which coronavirus cases would be considered as “low”. However, it has empowered municipal authorities and district collectors to take a decision in this regard for urban and rural areas, respectively.

In a series of tweets, School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad said that from August 17, schools in rural areas can reopen for classes 5 to 12, and schools in cities can reopen for classes 8 to 12.

Gaikwad said that the move was aimed at ensuring that “all students have equal access to education amidst the pandemic”.

She added that attendance norms have been relaxed, and parents have the final say on allowing their children to attend physical classes.

Since July 15, schools in Maharashtra have been allowed to open in areas where zero Covid-19 cases have been reported in the preceding month.

Here are the key points from the state government’s circular issued on Tuesday:

  • District collectors have been directed to ensure that all teachers are vaccinated
  • Parents should not be allowed to enter the school premises in order to avoid crowding.
  • Only one student should be allowed to sit on each bench and benches should be placed six feet apart. A maximum of 15-20 students should be allowed to be present at a time.
  • If a student tests positive for Covid-19, the school should immediately be closed and disinfected.
  • Students should be called to school in multiple shifts or on alternate days. Teaching of core subjects should be given priority.
  • As far as possible, teachers should ensure that they live in the same village or city as the school. The teachers are to ensure that they do not need to use public transport as far as possible.

In recent days, several states have partially allowed schools to reopen, with precautions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Karnataka government has announced that physical classes can resume for classes 9 and 10, and pre-university [classes 11 and 12] from August 23, The Indian Express reported.

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority has allowed schools in the city to reopen partially for students of Classes 10 and 12 from August 9. However, students will be allowed to go to schools only for counseling, guidance and practical activities related to board exams, the DDMA order stated.

Schools in Punjab reopened for all classes on August 2, with the requirement that they should follow protocols to ensure Covid-19 appropriate behaviour.