The Centre on Tuesday said that schools can partially reopen on a voluntary basis for Classes 9 to 12 from September 21. However, online and distance learning will continue to be permitted and encouraged, a Statement of Protocol issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.

“Students of class 9th to 12th shall be permitted to visit their school on voluntary basis for taking guidance from their teachers,” the SOP said. “This will be subject to written consent of their parents/guardians. Such visits and teacher – student interaction must be organized in a staggered manner.”

Teachers, employees of the school and students must follow physical distancing guidelines, maintaining a distance of at least six feet from each other, the SOP said. It said face covers and masks must be used, and hands must be washed frequently with soap even when not dirty. Alcohol-based sanitisers must be used wherever possible. The SOP also said that everyone should monitor their own health and report any illness immediately.

Students and teachers living in containment zones will not be allowed to attend school, the Centre said. Only asymptomatic teachers, non-teaching staff and students will be allowed inside the premises.

All work areas intended for teaching, including laboratories and other common utility areas, shall be sanitised with 1% sodium hypochlorite solution, the SOP said. “Schools that were used as quarantine centres will be properly sanitized and deep cleaned before partial functioning is resumed,” it added.

The Centre said both teaching and non-teaching staff can come to school at 50% strength. It also asked schools to arrange for recording attendance of students and teachers in a contactless manner. The air conditioning shall operate between 24 degrees Celsius and 30 degrees Celsius, the SOP said.

“Weather permitting, outdoor spaces may be utilized for conducting teacher student interactions, keeping in view the safety and security of students and physical distancing protocols,” the SOP said. But sports and other events that lead to crowding remain strictly prohibited. Swimming pools will also remain closed.

Educational institutions have remained closed since March, when the Centre imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus. India on Tuesday morning reported a daily jump of 75,808 new coronavirus cases, taking its tally to 42,80,422. The toll rose by 1,133 to 72,775, while the country’s recovery rate is 77.31%.

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