Maharashtra: What COVID-19 protocols are in place ahead of schools reopening?

Classes 1 to 4 in rural areas and Classes 1 to 7 in urban areas will be opened from December 1. These are the SOPs that are to be maintained
Pic: Edex Live
Pic: Edex Live

Observing COVID-19 appropriate behaviour, vaccination of teachers and school staff are among the protocols that have to be followed in schools, according to the Maharashtra Health Department's guidelines ahead of the reopening of schools on December 1 for Classes 1 to 4 in rural classes and Classes 1 to 7 in urban areas.

In-person classes in primary schools of the state have remained closed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. In a letter to health officers of all districts and civic bodies, the State Health Services Director said COVID-19 appropriate behaviour, like maintaining a distance of six feet, mandatory wearing of face masks and washing hands must be followed while opening schools.

The guidelines stated that students should be provided information on washing hands, covering mouth and nose with a handkerchief or tissue while sneezing and coughing. Schools in containment zones should not be opened. Teachers and students from the containment zones should not be allowed to come to school, the guidelines said. Also, schools should be cleaned and surfaces that come in regular contact should be wiped with sodium hypochlorite.

Schools which were being used as quarantine centres should be cleaned and sanitised, the official said while issuing the guidelines. Biometric attendance should be avoided and use of swimming pools has been prohibited, he said, adding that COVID-19 appropriate protocol must be followed while using the gymnasium. Adequate arrangements should be made to wash hands, keeping in consideration the number of students and teachers.

Any initiative which will lead to crowding should be avoided, he added. Besides, adequate distance should be maintained between students while they are standing in queues, in the playground and assembly points by making markings. Similar arrangements should be made in the library. Special care should be taken of the teaching and administrative staff with co-morbidity and other serious illnesses.

Schools must maintain an adequate stock of face masks, hand sanitiser and sodium hypochlorite solution, the guidelines stated. Listing out precautions before opening the schools, the health official said those without any COVID-19 symptoms should be permitted in classrooms. Schools should also display information about COVID-19. School buses/vehicles plying students should not be crowded and must be cleaned.

Students with symptoms should not be treated with any kind of discrimination and their parents should be contacted immediately. In the meantime, the students should be made to sit in a separate room with a mask on.

If a student tests positive, then wards sitting/ standing behind and in front should be treated as close contacts. A list should be made of teachers and students who came in close contact with the infected student, the guidelines said. Such close contact students should be home-quarantined and school, especially toilets, should be sanitised.

Tests should also be done of students who came in close contact with the infected students. Asymptomatic students should be tested five to 10 days after coming in contact with the infected students, as per the guidelines. The Maharashtra cabinet last Thursday decided to reopen schools for students of Classes 1 to 4 in rural areas and Classes 1 to 7 in urban areas from December 1.

"After discussing the issue with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the cabinet and the paediatric task force, we have decided to reopen schools for Classes 1 to 4 in rural areas and Classes 1 to 7 in urban areas from December 1," School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad had said in a statement.

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