New Delhi: Union Health Ministry on Tuesday (September 8) issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) for a partial reopening of schools for students of 9th to 12th classes on a voluntary basis, for taking guidance from their teachers, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ministry issued the SOP in the wake of the Centre's decision to allow phase-wise unlocking of activities. It has issued generic preventive measures including simple public health measures that should be followed to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

Teachers, employees, and students have been asked to follow the measures given below:

1. The physical distancing of at least 6 feet to be followed as far as feasible.
2. Use of face covers/masks to be made mandatory.
3. Frequent handwashing with soap (for at least 40-60 seconds) even when hands are not visibly dirty. Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (for at least 20 seconds) can be done wherever feasible.
4. Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed. This involves the strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing with a tissue/handkerchief/flexed elbow and disposing of used tissues properly.
5. Self-monitoring of health by all and reporting any illness at the earliest.
6. Spitting shall be strictly prohibited.
7. Installation and use of the Aarogya Setu App may be advised wherever feasible.

All schools (with classes IX to XII) shall specifically ensure the following arrangements:

1. Online/distance learning shall continue to be permitted and shall be encouraged.
2. Students of class 9th to 12th shall be permitted to visit their school on a voluntary basis for taking guidance from their teachers. This will be subject to the written consent of their parents/guardians.
3. Such visits and teacher-student interaction must be organized in a staggered manner.

The schools have also been advised to follow certain measures prior to opening the schools.

1. School outside the containment zones only shall be allowed to open. Further, students, teachers, and employees living in containment zones will not be allowed to attend school. Students, teachers, and employees shall also be advised not to visit areas falling within containment zones.

2. Prior to resumption of activities, all work areas intended for teaching/demonstrations, etc., including laboratories, other common utility areas shall be sanitized with 1% sodium hypochlorite solution, with particular attention to frequently touched surfaces.

3. Schools that were used as quarantine centers will be properly sanitized and deep cleaned before partial functioning is resumed. Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for disinfection of common public places including offices may be referred to in this regard)

At the entry point, the schools should mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions. Multiple gates/separate gates, if feasible, should be used for entry and exit.
 
Only asymptomatic persons (teachers, employees, and students) to be allowed on the premises. If a teacher/employee/student is found to be symptomatic, he/she should be referred to the nearest health center.

The schools have also been asked to display posters/standees on preventive measures about COVID-19 prominently. They should have proper crowd management in the parking lots, in corridors, and in elevators – duly following physical distancing norms shall be organized.

The entry of visitors should be strictly regulated/restricted.