After being closed since March 23, 2020, the central government has now decided to re-open schools for classes 9th to 12th, from September 21, 2020, on a voluntary basis.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has allowed schools to reopen from September 21, 2020, but only on a voluntary basis.

Since India entered Unlock in 4.0, all states have issued their own sets of rules and regulations and schools are set to re-open, on a voluntary basis, in Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Bihar, etc.

Unlock 4.0; the states and guidelines

Unlock 4.0 guidelines: What’s allowed?

  • State/Union Territories may permit up to 50% of teaching and non-teaching staff to return to school starting September 21 for online teaching-related work in areas outside containment zones.
  • Metro services will resume from September 7, 2020, in a graded manner.
  • Open-air theatres will be allowed to reopen from September 21, 2020
  • Social/ academic/ sports/ entertainment/ cultural/ religious/ political functions and other congregations will be permitted with a ceiling of 100 people. However, strict measures — including mandatory wearing of face masks, social distancing, and thermal scanning provisions — will have to be observed.
  • No restrictions will be imposed on the inter-state and intra-state movement of people and goods. No separate permission or e-permits will be needed for such a movement.
  • Students from classes 9 to 12 from schools outside containment zones will be permitted to visit their faculty to clear doubts on a voluntary basis from September 21.

Unlock 4.0 guidelines: What’s not allowed

  • International air travel, other than what is permitted by MHA, remains suspended.
  • Elderly people, over the age of 65 and young children below the age of 10 have been advised to stay at home. They should venture out only for essential and health purposes, the MHA has said
  • State and union territories will not be permitted to enforce lockdowns outside containment zones without the Centre’s permission.
  • Schools, colleges, educational and coaching institutions will remain closed for students till September 30th. Online/distance learning will continue.
  • Cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres and other such places will remain closed.

Unlock 4.0: schools and other educational institutions to reopen

Last month, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued guidelines stating that all schools and colleges are to remain shut until September 30, 2020. It also stated that schools and colleges can call in 50% of their staff members to work and students from classes 9th to 12th can join the school on a voluntary basis to clear their doubts, according to the instructions of the state governments.

Last week, Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, announced that students from classes 9th to 12th can go to school on a voluntary basis to seek guidance from their teachers, in areas outside the containment zones in the union territory. The Delhi Government issued a notice stating: “All schools to continue to remain closed until September 30. Students of classes 9 to 12 may be permitted to visit their schools in areas outside containment zones only on a voluntary basis to take guidance from their teachers.” It added: “This will be subject to the written consent of the parents/guardians and will be permitted with effect from September 21 for which SOP will be issued by the Health Ministry to be followed by the schools.”

In Haryana, the state government has decided that two state-run schools will reopen in Karnal and Sonipat, for the students from classes 10th to 12th. The two schools reopened on a trial basis after acquiring a nod from the parents of the students.

In Bihar, Kumar Ravi, Patna’s District Manager issued an order which allowed students from classes 9th to 12th to visit schools reopened on a voluntary basis, outside the containment zones. The containment zones are to be shut down completely in Bihar, till the end of this month.

Schools will reopen in Andra Pradesh as the state government is ready to run classes on September 21, but the participation of the students is still voluntary, as per MHA guidelines. The students would be required to submit a written application, signed by their parents in order to enter the school.

The Maharashtra Government has decided against opening any educational institutions, keeping in mind that it is still India’s worst-hit state currently. Hence, online learning continues in Maharashtra.

Just like the Maharashtra Government, the Karnataka Government, and the West Bengal government also have decided against the opening of schools and other educational institutions, till the end of September.

Social distancing guidelines for educational institutions issued by the Ministry of Health

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare allowed the schools to re-open on a voluntary basis from September 21, 2020, issuing a number of guidelines for the conduction of these classes for schools.

The Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) issued by the ministry are in correlation with guidelines issued by the central government’s Unlock 4.0 guidelines to conduct classes offline. The Ministry of Health took to its Twitter account to issue the guidelines, adding, “#IndiaFightsCorona Health Ministry issues SOP for a partial reopening of Schools for students of 9th-12th classes on a voluntary basis, for taking guidance from their teachers in the context of #COVID19.”