With precaution, patience, and proactive measures, educators can once again make schooling safe, fun and empowering.
Schools have finally opened in Maharashtra this month, and the guidelines given by the school education department will be adapted as per local conditions.
From mandatory parent-teacher meetings about precautionary measures to a hybrid model of education with a mix of online and offline classes, staggered school hours as well as optional physical attendance have made it easier for the transition to unfold without stress.
Educationist Rajesh Bhatia, Founder, and CEO of TreeHouse say, “Even though surveys overwhelmingly indicate parental support to the idea of reopening schools, it is not hard to see why it will be tough for them to get used to the idea of classes taking place in brick and mortar spaces. Some amount of anxiety is natural in both parents and kids and I feel counseling sessions at schools will help alleviate stress to some extent, answer possible concerns, and offer solutions. Vaccination mandate for all educators, socially distanced seating and activities are some of the other measures that can reassure parents not just in Maharashtra but in any place where schools have reopened.”
The good news is that since the pandemic, Mumbai has reported zero deaths due to #COVID19 for the first time and this could be a happy portent of even better tidings. Rajesh says, “The stringent protocols in the state have paid off and now if the schools too follow suit, we will be able to take the anxiety and the uncertainty out of the equation. I foresee schools maintaining strict safety and hygiene standards. At TreeHouse centers, for instance, we have chalked out a few rules that will make things safer for children. There are no grey areas as far as post-pandemic protocols are concerned as we have shared rules and regulations via a document with parents and teachers. Still, we understand that it will be tough for everyone to adapt to an altered physical environment and so as educators, we must be patient with ourselves, with our students and their parents too.”
Among the mandatory requirements is a vaccination for those who are eligible and face masks. Structured use of hallways and managing recess time in a staggered way so that everyone can use the playground systematically and safely, will also be ensured.
He says, "We are also going to be repeatedly screening educators and staff members and will ensure that children are inadequately ventilated spaces where the air is not stagnant. Diagnostic testing is also on the cards if needed.
Cleaning and disinfecting classrooms and bathrooms will be even more frequent than before and students and staff will be encouraged to use sanitizers or wash their hands as much as possible."
Rajesh believes that children with pre-existing health conditions must be extra careful and this may not be the right time for them to come back to attend physical classes. He says, "For them, our remote model will continue to function. On the whole, we will continue to create an educational experience that is safe, stimulating, and empowering for children so that schooling continues to be a source of growth and joy rather than stress and fear.”