Published: 07th October 2020
How campuses across India are gearing up to reopen with tech tweaks and safety infra
Schools are leaving no stone unturned to follow the standard operating procedures set down by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and MHA. We find out about the 'new normal' of school life
Exams cancelled, reopening of schools postponed and online classes going on in full swing — one thing is certain when it comes to the academic calendar of 2020-2021 — nothing is certain. So in this atmosphere of uncertainty, certain schools are gearing up to welcome students back in bits and pieces and by this, we don't only mean placing hand sanitisers in every classroom, these are big infrastructural changes. Edex spoke to a few schools to understand what changes they are making on campuses to make their spaces safe and contamination-free for when they can phase into reopening.
Making big changes
First and foremost, Minu Salooja, Assistant Director of Glendale Group of Schools, Hyderabad, hired a Chief Administrator who was previously working with Jamia Hamdard. With him, they have developed a post-lockdown safety precaution protocol document that speaks about personal hygiene, social distancing and cleaning and sanitation at length. Indoor spaces like classrooms and libraries are being cleaned through a sodium hydrochloride solution and computer labs are being fogged. Class strengths are reduced by 60 per cent and all contact sports are banned. "All the frills are out, it's going to be a straightforward way of life now," says the Assistant Director.
One of the major infrastructural changes they have made is to change the asbestos roof in their dining hall to an RCC (Reinforced Cement Concrete) which required an investment of Rs 40 lakh. They wanted to do this to make the dining hall an enclosed area. The support staff also is being trained thoroughly and they are looking for the right vendors for thermal screening machines. "We are preparing ahead of time because we don't know when the government will ask us to reopen, we don't want to be caught unawares," she asserts.
For practical activities in laboratories, maximum capacity per session based on redesigned spaces, maybe planned and scheduled accordingly. Instruments should be disinfected properly
Child-friendly posters aimed at spreading awareness about Coronavirus will catch the eye of students in the pre-primary and primary blocks and the TVs in the corridors will be used to play informative videos. Upon forming a focus group with parents, some of their suggestions like closing the kitchen is being implemented.
A threat matrix to stay safe
Dr Ted Mockrish, Head of Canadian International School, Bengaluru, says that they have been gearing up for this for a while. He explains, "The school leadership created a threat matrix dependent on the status of the virus in the city. As early as late February, all those entering our school campus were required to undergo temperature screening. All staff and visitors who enter the grounds continue to be screened on a daily basis and this practice will continue when students are able to return to the school." CIS also made sanitiser in their Chemistry lab and distributed it to everyone. He added, "All classrooms will be fitted with hand sanitizer dispensers and there will be additional hand washing stations added to the student academic blocks."
In tandem with kids
Nuwaira Pasha, Principal, Indus International School understands that when students do come back to school, they want to catch up on the aspects that weren't covered while learning online like collaborative projects, sports, music and dance. "Schools are for children so we want them to be the happiest when they come back," she says. To ensure this happens, they have tied up with Apollo Shine Foundation. Glass partitions in dining halls ensure that students don't feel isolated and still stay safe. There are also marking corridors with six feet arrows and social distancing boxes so that students are always mindful of social distancing.
Entrance to have mandatory hand sanitiser dispenser and thermal screening provisions. Multiple gates should be used for entry and exit
Classroom strengths are reduced to 12 from 35 and social distancing boxes can be found inside classrooms as well. They are also encouraging students to come up with new games that require no contact or minimum amount of contact. "We don't want to frighten the kids, we want to educate them in a sensitive way," she says. They have also come up with a handbook that is detailed, colourful and child-friendly. It explains the protocols and procedures set in place by the institute to combat the virus.
Scanned to the tee
Greenwood High International School is even preparing for the eventual reopening of canteens and common areas though current MHA norms don't allow for common areas to be used now. Niru Agarwal, Trustee of Greenwood High International School, says, "We have rearranged our classrooms to maintain a distance of six feet between each occupant and also sanitise it regularly. Our canteen has a seating capacity of well over 1,000 occupants at the same time. Thus, we have re-arranged the canteen seating in a way where social distancing is adhered to. Also, separate zones have been created to facilitate students to eat behind screens safely and securely for when the government allows it."
Meanwhile, the school is taking extra care to screen the body temperature of the school staff. Niru adds, "At a time when physical correction and verification of homework and assignments of the students will need to be carried out, we have strategised a policy wherein a student will leave the notebooks in the classroom table of the teacher and the teacher shall physically examine the notebooks wearing gloves, masks at least after 24 hours, so that any pathogens become ineffective in the meanwhile."
The teaching faculty will ensure that they themselves and students wear masks throughout their interaction. Sharing of items like notebook, pens/pencil, eraser, water bottle amongst students should not be allowed
Using tech to stay in check
Imagine a school setting with students wearing foot masks, passing through a school gate with a touchless temperature check! This is no sci-fi movie, but this is exactly how Delhi's Modern Public School has planned its activities after classes resume in a post COVID world. The school's principal Alka Kapur, says, "We have installed touchless sanitising stations in the school. At the entrance, we have installed automatic face recognition terminals as well, where, during the entry, every student and teacher will go through a touchless temperature check and if anyone is not wearing a mask, the machine will raise an alarm for this."
VIBGYOR Group of Schools, that runs a chain of 39 schools across 14 major Indian cities, including Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi is all set to check the students' temperature every day, upon resumption of physical schooling. "Thermal temperature checks at the entrance for staff and students will be conducted along with sensitising the students on precautions to be taken by them," says Peshwa Acharya, the school's Chief Marketing Officer.
What do the guidelines say, really?
- Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed. This involves strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing with a tissue/handkerchief/flexed elbow and disposing off used tissues properly
- 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.
- All employees who are at higher risk ie older employees, pregnant employees and employees who
have underlying medical conditions to take extra precautions
- Self-monitoring of health by all students, teachers and administrative staff and reporting any illness at the earliest
- Frequent handwashing with soap (for at least 40-60 seconds) even when hands are not visibly dirty.
Use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers (for at least 20 seconds) can be done wherever feasible
- Students and employees should be advised to dispose of used face covers/masks in separate
covered bins placed in common areas
- Physical distancing of at least 6 feet to be followed as far as feasible
- Use of face covers and masks to be made mandatory