Private schools change infrastructure for student safety
From installing foot-operated taps to using larger classrooms, schools take additional precautions but pass on cost to parents
The reality of an altered school life in times of COVID-19 hit home for thousands of students who returned to their classrooms on Friday after a gap of nine months. Apart from wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and following the SOP listed by the government, students found that there were additional changes on campus.
Many private schools in Bengaluru have made infrastructural changes to ensure the safety of students and staff, such as expanding the size of the classroom and installing foot-operated taps in washrooms. A majority of schools have put permanent markings in all areas of their campus to ensure that students maintain physical distance from each other at all times.
However, these changes will come at a cost, one that schools have decided to pass on to parents in the form of a separate COVID-19 fee or sanitisation charges for this academic year.
D. Shashi Kumar, general secretary of the Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka, said that many schools had procured fogging machines, sanitiser dispensing machines and oxygen cylinders that may be needed in case of an emergency.
Mansoor Ali Khan, member, board of management, DPS Group of Schools, said that they had deployed additional maintenance staff. “On an average, we have 300 people to clean the school campus when students from kindergarten to class twelve are present. Now, for just students of classes ten and twelve, we will have 125 maintenance staff coming every day. We want to ensure that the toilets are sanitised after every use. The health of our students is our utmost priority,” he said, and added that they had procured sanitisers, face shields and masks for students.
Srinivasan M., chairman, Gear Innovative International School, said that they will resume classes on January 4. “We have rearranged classrooms and removed many desks and chairs to maintain social distancing. A large chunk of our expenditure was incurred in sanitising the classrooms,” he said.
Most central board schools remain shut
Many private schools in the city, particularly those affiliated to central boards, chose not to reopen. While some managements made this decision as they did not want to risk the spread of infection, others decided to do so as they did not have enough funds to follow the SOP laid down by the Department of Primary and Secondary Education.
S.R. Umashankar, Principal Secretary of the department, said that the State government had only issued SOP for schools who wish to reopen classes. “It is not mandatory. We cannot insist that all private schools should be reopened,” he said.
Isolation units in all schools
Isolations units have been set up in schools and PU colleges across the State for students who report to campus with symptoms of COVID-19. They will be isolated in the unit and undergo testing at the nearest government facility.
If a student tests positive, his or her peers in the class should be tested, said Primary and Secondary Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar. School managements should monitor their health and resume physical classes only after students get their test results.
The tentative timetable for the board examinations for classes ten and second-year pre-university will be announced next week, said Primary and Secondary Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar. The examinations, which are usually held in March and April, will be postponed this year as many academic days were lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For State syllabus students of all classes, the government is yet to announce the trimmed syllabus for the 2020-21 academic year.
‘Consult parents on fees’
The Department of Primary and Secondary Education has said that private school managements will have to consult parents before collecting fees for the 2020-21 academic year. This comes in the backdrop of parents complaining that they were being urged to pay fees when they currently do not have the financial means to do so.
S.R. Umashankar, Principal Secretary of the department, said that many private schools were offering discounts in the range of 12% to 50% as people have lost their jobs or faced salary cuts due to the pandemic.
He added that admissions to government schools were still open and appealed to parents who had not admitted their children in school this academic year to do so.