In a pleasing development, the authorities last week announced that schools in Jammu and Kashmir will finally open after nearly a year long closure due to COVID-19, the pandemic that rattled the entire globe disturbing normal life radically. In an official order issued by the school education department, schools in the summer zone of the Jammu division will reopen for classes IX to XII from February 1 while in Kashmir, the educational institutes will be thrown open after the winter vacation, which expectedly will be from March 1. According to the order, the officials have been asked to follow the standard operating procedures in letter and spirit as per the suggestions of the district disaster management authorities. For the ownership of the initiative, as per the order, a local committee needs to be framed comprising of parents, VEC members, SMC members, and other prominent persons from the habitation for monitoring and support of the school. The students can sit almost two meters apart from each other. In case of non-availability of such space, staggered schedule/shift timings can be an option. In addition, wearing of masks has been made mandatory for the students and teachers. Schools have been asked to set up hand washing points with proper soap availability for everyone. In case of absence of washing stations, hand sanitizers of standard quality prescribed by the government should be used as hand rub. Disinfecting, sanitizing, and cleaning the learning spaces and surfaces in convergence with the concerned department and local volunteers should be a daily affair. While coming and leaving school, students and teachers should maintain a physical distance of at least two meters from each other and no student or teacher should breach this distance rule.
Exchanging notebooks, stationery items have been strictly banned. The student safety, self-esteem, and security should be ensured. Keep students reminding of Covid related precautions, schools authorities should limit any nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups in the school. Most of the students and parents are looking forward to this development as in Kashmir, kids have been staying home for almost two years now. Our lockdown began way back in August 2019 before the world shut down. And while COVID-19 threat still prevails, the availability of vaccines has offered a sigh a relief and instill confidence among the people to go on with their normal lives. Education became one of the major casualties of this crisis but come March, the government should do everything in its power to resume academic activities so that students can go back to their schools and restart their beautiful life in classrooms and playgrounds, although taking all the necessary precautions.