The classes in March, which is a time for examination for a majority of Indian students, were cut short when the government asked schools to close down. Most schools continue to remain shut and are unsure about reopening anytime soon. But plans are afoot to ensure social distancing norms are in place.
According to studies, children and adolescents are the least affected by the virus, with less than 2% of them having been hospitalised so far.
Many schools in Bengaluru are speculating that they will be among the last to return to normalcy.
“The management has said that the school will resume operations by the end of July,” says Mangala Rajachandra, a senior teacher at Kensri School. “We are in talks about conducting classes on a rotational basis once the school reopens. However, we are yet to receive any concrete guidelines as the management is waiting to hear from the government,” she adds.
Sujay, founder and principal of Growing Wonders, a Montessori School in Jayanagar and Basavanagudi, says that his management has always prioritised hygiene to maintain a healthy environment. “In a pre-school setting, children need to be sat down and spoken to about social-distancing. Since social behaviour is a part of our curriculum already, it will be easy for us to communicate and help children understand the new norms that they need to follow,” he says.
There are no chairs and desks provided at Growing Wonders. The children are made to place mats three feet apart for activities. Controlling children in a classroom can be a daunting task. What about maintaining distance and order in the toilets? Tackling this issue is a cause for concern, Sujay says.
“In our school, children enter the washroom one at a time and are not allowed to rush inside. It should not be a problem for the schools already following this kind of discipline.”
Apart from instructing adults to avoid sending an unwell child to school, Sujay also talks about setting guidelines for anxious parents. “We need to ensure that we do not put fear in a child’s mind. We need to educate them to be cautious about the current situation,” he adds.
However, several other schools have voiced apprehensions of reopening too soon. The Deen’s Academy in Whitefield, for example, will not be resuming physical classes or admissions for their toddler level during this academic year, says principal Shanthi Menon. “We are going to resume classes for grades 9-12 around the end of September. The school will be reopening for the senior lot to allow them to take their practical exams.”
Once the schools start functioning, she adds that they plan to downsize batch sizes. “We have about 30 students per class. This number will be halved once students return. We will be dividing the children into week-wise batches,” Shanthi says. Each week, 15 students will be physically present, while the rest will continue classes online according to a rotational system.
To ensure social distancing during leisure and PE hours, Shanthi says that the management will be enlisting the help of the school’s student council.
“The existing token system will be in place during class hours to limit the number of students stepping out,” she adds. Support staff will also be present in restrooms to ensure that hygiene is maintained. Meanwhile, the on-campus cafeteria will no longer be operational in order to keep up hygiene standards.
The new academic year will present unique challenges to teachers and students alike, she says. “Our teachers have been working to revamp the curriculum to fit the current situation, since the younger students will possibly continue to take classes online. Fortunately, the children have adapted well to the hours and the new methodology.”