New guidelines are being prepared for schools, which need to be followed when they reopen post COVID-19 lockdown,¬†officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) have said to news agency Press Trust of India (PTI). The guidelines are being formed by the Ministry’s Department of School Education and Literacy, the PTI has quoted officials saying.Social Distancing In Classes: MHRD Plans A New Setup For Schools Post COVID-19 Lockdown

HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ had also deliberated upon the issue of safety guidelines in a meeting with state education ministers last week.

Whenever schools and colleges reopen, proper social distancing norms will have to be followed as health and safety of students has to be the priority, officials have said.

The Ministry is likely to introduce guidelines and safety measures on the seating arrangement of students in classes which is one of the biggest factors to be considered in connection to social distancing.

On an average one classroom accommodates 30-40 students. In most of the schools, two students share a seat or a bench-desk. The number of students sharing one bench-desk is even more than two in many schools.

If social distancing is created between students, then MHRD should also look into the seating capacity of each school. With proper social distancing measures, it may be difficult for schools to conduct classes in the same way like they were conducting before lockdown.

Usually in our country, schools are held in the morning shift for primary classes and in the day shift for secondary level classes. In many schools senior secondary level classes are also held in the day shift.

“The guidelines will include a checklist and recommended measures to ensure student and staff safety. However, the COVID-19 situation in a particular area will also be have to kept in mind and the institutions will have flexibility to adapt to the guidelines accordingly. The minister has reiterated many times that the safety and health of students has to be prioritised,” a senior official told PTI.

“The guidelines are being formed and will also be shared with states so they can prepare accordingly before reopening schools and colleges. Districts will be tasked with the implementation of the guidelines and certain spaces in the campuses will have to be revamped to ensure social distancing,” the official added.

For higher education institutes, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has already released the guidelines in which it has recommended that academic session for freshers may begin in September and for enrolled students in August. It has emphasized on use of online teaching tools for conducting classes.

Universities and schools across the country have been closed since March 16 when the central government announced a countrywide classroom shutdown as one of the measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. Later, a nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24, which was extended till May 3.