The Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) has recommended that the decision on school reopening in the pandemic times should be taken by each district administration and not at the national or State level.
The proposal figures top among the latest guidelines on school education amidst the COVID-19 scenario drafted by a committee set up by the IAP. Schools can be be reopened only when the local epidemiological parameters are favourable. The district administration has to be equipped with adequate infrastructure and health care facilities and the stakeholders (teachers, students, parents, and support staff) are prepared for the ‘new normal,’ it said.
“The district administration has to ensure that the number of new cases of COVID-19 detected in the district concerned should be steadily decreasing for two weeks preceding the date of school reopening. The number of new cases in the district per lakh population per day should be less than 20 in the past two weeks,” said S. Sachidananda Kamath, former national president of IAP and member of the committee that drafted the guidelines.
The guidelines prescribed that schools should open in batches with older students joining first. The students should be divided and called in different batches, shifts /alternate days and in staggered times. Schools should be ready with the new norms of the infrastructure, training of the staff and health and hygiene facilities.
Suggesting that the academics this year should be made as stress free as possible, Dr. Kamath recommended that the educational boards concerned should undertake 50% trimming of the syllabi for all the subjects of all the classes. “The quantity and portion to be cut should be reviewed and re-addressed from time to time,” he said.
The guidelines said that remote learning (media-based and /or otherwise) should reach the last student to maintain uninterrupted education. The curriculum needs to be revised, with focus on revision and core contents. Informal learning of psychosocial empowerment and daily living skills should be encouraged rather than stressful formal learning, it said.
The committee pointed out that school reopening needs to be considered with utmost care as many studies had found that children remain asymptomatic but carry significant viral load and can potentially spread COVID-19 among the general population.