Schools will need to continue a mix of physical and online learning even after school reopening

Alka Kapur, Principal Modern Public School Shalimar Bagh (Delhi) reimagines the likely school reopening scenario and safeguards’

As the Coronavirus cases keep surging in India, it remains unclear as to when the schools would reopen. The joyous laughter, the precious smiles, and the celebrations – everything has paused. At the same time, we have been quite fortunate to have this digital space that has helped us to keep ‘schooling’ going on virtual platforms.

However, the beauty of connecting in person cannot be ignored and underestimated.  It is our natural way of interaction and communication with people for thousands of years. And, eventually sooner than later schools will reopen and it will be a happy coming together. There will be protocols, standard operating procedures and precautions until the pandemic is not gone or brought fully under control.  

So, what should be our response? Well, firstly, we need to build a positive attitude towards the situation. Schools, teachers, parents and stakeholders are making their best efforts to manage the situation.

Some new essentials like masks, sanitizers and social distancing have become a part of our life.  Following these protocols is going to be no doubt a challenge, especially for the children. The young children though informed have no clue as to what this pandemic may do with even single lapse. Therefore, schools will need to continue to adapt to evolving situation with a lot of caution and ensure teaching and learning continues.

Blended Learning

There is need for a mix of physical and online learning. For safety concerns, we might have to teach children in staggered shifts when the schools open. This would mean that students would get their education from both offline and online platforms. In this way, we’ll not only be able to keep our children safe, but we’ll also prepare them for the future that is becoming increasingly digital. The sooner our kids get comfortable with technology, the better they will fare.

No Outdoor activities for a year

The children may not like this as it is something that they always look forward to. But to be safe than sorry, most schools will avoid outdoor activities for at least a year or so. It would be challenging enough to maintain social distancing in class, let alone during outdoor games. Therefore, as a preventive measure, the outdoor activities will have to be put aside for at least a year.

Major Focus on Sanitization and Distancing

Schools are crowded places, where 1000 to 3000 students, along with admin staff and teachers, spend almost 7 to 8 hours of a day. This means a likelihood of increase in social interactions between humans, and thus, everyone would have to focus on staying sanitized and physically distant from other people. Even though the students are already taught in school about the importance of hygiene and safety, there would be no chance of taking this lightly.

Private Commute

This is a tough point to discuss as it would be difficult to monitor which student has been exposed to which public place or transport or person. In such a scenario, the school bus would be the safest commute as we can provide the necessary sanitized environment and a senior staff member, who would ensure that all the proper safety protocols are being followed. Students whose parents can drop their children through private vehicles would also be a quite safe option.

Unlearning what has been taught before

Teachers mould their students’ future, career and life, but one thing which makes them a good human being is the values imparted to them. Right from the very moment when they start studying in school, teachers give lessons like ‘sharing is caring’, ‘help others’, ‘be familiar’, ‘be kind’ and ‘care for each other’. But in the wake of Coronavirus, we need to unlearn a few of these things. We can no longer tell them sharing is caring, because for a certain time@, it would be advisable to eat your own food (preferably home-cooked). The children must avoid giving any of their things to their friends or fellow students. The students would also have to avoid shaking hands or hugging their friends or other physical greetings as these things breach the norms of social distancing.

It would, no doubt, be difficult for children to follow such stringent protocols, but as teachers, parents and mentors, it is our responsibility to make them understand that we need to follow these rules to protect ourselves.

If there is one thing that children understand easily, it’s the language of love. That’s what we should use to communicate with them