There are many questions to answer for the government schools of Delhi to start planning for a re-opening of the school. The questions are how can we prevent students from having no contact with each other, how can we maintain social distancing, how any students will be accommodated in each classroom and how should online teaching and classroom teaching be mixed?
All the schools have moved to online learning during the lockdown since mid-March. The government schools of Delhi are in summer vacation till June 30. However, the Directorate of Education (DOE) has given no notification about the date from which the children will return to school.
But on Tuesday, the heads of all the schools received a questionnaire from the Directorate to set in motion the planning for the eventual re-opening of the schools. There are the individual challenges of the 1,040 government schools run by the Delhi government. An individual micro plan is to be devised by the school heads in consultation with teachers, parents, and the members of the School Management Committee (SMC).
Manish Sisodia, the Education Minister in the Delhi government, held a video meeting with the heads of the government schools and asked them to formulate these plans. Sisodia said that we are following an elaborate planning process because many factors must be kept in mind before making a decision. The question is not only about maintaining social distancing or calling a set of classes and not the other. Any decision taken by the government will have far-reaching effects on the children, their families as school plays an integral role in one’s social life.
The schools have been asked to track all the students and bring them back to the school, provide emotional and trauma support, the maintenance of social distancing along with sanitization. These are the prime considerations of all the schools.
All the teachers have been ordered by the DoE to call their students to enquire about their well-being, whereabouts, and their feedback on remote learning.
Many teachers said that this is an extremely important step towards the re-opening of the schools, more so when lakhs of migrant workers have left Delhi for their hometowns during the lockdown.
A teacher of a school in northeast Delhi said that in her class of 62 students, she has been able to contact only 45 of them in the past week. Two of them are in their hometowns and they intend to return, therefore, they can attend school. But these students are of class 12. The surety of the return of the younger students and their families is much lesser. There are some 12-13 students whose mobile phones are switched off and they are the children whom she is worried the most about.
The DoE has also asked the schools to give the figures of how many students they have no contact with and to provide an estimate as to how many students will show up if the schools re-open in July.
Keeping in mind social distancing, the schools have been asked to assess the number of classrooms and how many students will be able to attend school every day.
A senior teacher of a school said that now they will have to look at the school’s infrastructure in terms of new needs. This will differ from school to school as some schools have 600 students while the others have more than 2000. There are some schools in certain districts where the students already come on staggered days because of the unavailability of infrastructure. They also have double-shift schools. There is a lot of monitoring required to maintain distancing even between 100 students.
The DoE is looking forward to making online learning an integral part of the school curriculum even after the schools start. Sisodia has influenced this aspect several times during the lockdown. The schools have also been asked about their inputs on the nature of online teaching and how online and offline teaching can be mixed.
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