Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday declared the start of the new academic year for state board schools with online classes and allowed physical reopening of schools from July onwards in rural pockets and those located at a distance from cities that haven’t had a single Covid case for over a month.
The state has also come up with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for schools that will reopen asking them to consider two shifts every day and scheduling different classes for different days based on odd-even format. “Since we cannot play with the health of students, actual schools can be reopened in rural areas and areas that are away from cities, which are not infected by Covid-19. Also, online and digital platforms should be used on pilot basis immediately,” said Thackeray.
The state government on Monday approved SOPs to reopen schools and regulate online learning, which was submitted by the education department on June 12. Thackeray approved the SOPs in a meeting with state Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad.
As per the notification, schools should begin online admissions through Google forms, conduct online meetings with the school management committee (SMC), ensure textbook distribution, create e-content and promote Diksha app.
Teachers have been asked to personally visit probable dropout students and convince them to re-connect with schools. Teachers have been asked to contact at least 10 parents every day to review students’ progress. In villages, schools will be required to seek help from gram panchayats in ramping up television, radio and computer facilities.
For online classes, classes 3-5 have been allowed screen-time of one hour, classes 5-8 for two hours and classes 9-12 for three hours. SMCs along with local administration will be allowed to decide whether schools should be physically reopened.
As per guidelines, classes 9-12 can start from July onwards, classes 6-8 in August and classes 3-5 in September. Students of classes 1-2 have been asked to study at home through educational programmes on television and radio. Class 11 will be started after announcement of SSC results and subsequent admissions. The state has asked teachers to adopt a different pedagogy and avoid teaching through lectures. Teachers have been advised to encourage students to self-learn and get their queries resolved later.
For physical reopening of schools, the state has asked SMCs to consider two shifts every day and scheduling different classes for different days based on odd-even format.
Only one student will be allowed to sit on one bench, and the students will be required to walk to school or dropped by parents to avoid crowding in buses or vans. For students enrolled under mid-day meal scheme, groceries will be home-delivered from July 1. Schools in villages have been asked to enroll wards of migrant labourers. Gram panchayats have been directed to sanitise schools before reopening by washing floors with soap water.
While the district administration, zilla parishad and municipal corporations have been ordered to ensure availability of sanitisers, masks, soap, water and other necessary items, the responsibility of training children to use masks and keep themselves safe rests upon parents.
Municipal corporations have been asked to work on creating WiFi facilities in different areas. They have also been ordered to explore if pre-loaded SD (Secure Digital) cards, tablets can be given to students as part of the pilot project on online learning. Help of private dish TV brands can also be sought in sharing content, academic calendar and curriculum, the government notification said.
No tentative date for physical reopening has been announced for schools that fall under containment zones.