Govt decides to form expert committee to decide on reopening of TN schools

A separate team will be formed in each district to conduct inspections in schools, including private institutions
Govt decides to form expert committee to decide on reopening of TN schools

Chennai

The Tamil Nadu government has decided to constitute an expert committee to decide when to reopen the schools after the lockdown is lifted in the State.
The School Education department’s decision to form a committee came against the backdrop of several requests from parents and teachers to give more clarity on the reopening of institutions. A senior official from the Directorate of School Education told DT Next on Wednesday that the expert committee will comprise of members of the School Education Department, representatives from Health and Family Welfare wing, and academicians.
“The members will meet at the State Secretariat soon after the lifting of the shutdown and would discuss the pandemic so that they would get an initial clarity on when the schools could be reopened,” he added.
According to the official, after the first phase of the meeting, the authorities would also call upon all the representatives of teachers’ forums and parents teachers associations from all the districts for further discussion.
“The authorities will get the required feedback and recommendations from various representatives during the meeting,” he said, adding “the final decision would be sent to the government for consideration.”
The official added that a separate team of education authorities will also be formed in each district to conduct inspections in the schools, including private institutions. “At the same time, all the Anganwadi centres and school hostels will also be inspected,” he said.
“Based on the report, school managements will be asked to take precautionary measures before reopening of institutions,” he said and dismissed the rumours that the schools will be reopened immediately after the shutdown period.
He said that the authorities will also review the conditions of exam centres, which were allocated for Class 10 board exams.
Pvt schools in State face Herculean task of ensuring students’ safety 
As the lockdown is scheduled to be lifted in a few days, private schools in Tamil Nadu are looking at the preventive and precautionary steps they have to take to ensure the safety of the students once the schools reopen.
From primary to higher secondary levels, there are more than 13,000 self-financing schools across the State that has about 39 lakh students.
Like other educational institutions, all of them had closed down since March last week due to total shutdown in the wake of coronavirus threat.
Now that the parents and teachers are expecting that the schools might reopen by June or July, the managements of the institutions face a herculean task to take all precautionary measures to ensuring the safety of the students.
“Already struggling to disburse the March salary to its staff, it is impossible for more than 90% of the private schools to spend huge amounts to take precautionary measures, including the purchase of sanitary equipment like sanitisers and facemasks,” said S Raja, president, Federation of Associations of Private
schools in Tamil Nadu.
Talking to DT Next, he said the State government should ask schools to reopen Class 10 to the higher secondary level in the first phase so that the managements could allocate more classrooms for the pupils to maintain social distance.
“Besides, high school students can understand the situation better and will cooperate with the school management,” he added. “During the second phase (one month later), classes for other standards can commence provided the pandemic threat goes away,” he added.
Malathi Balakrishnan, principal and director of Sankara public school group in the city, noted that more than 20 per cent students studying in middle and lower level private schools have not paid their final term fees. “Therefore, it would be an insurmountable task for the managements to spend money to buy hand sanitisers and face masks in large quantity,” she said.
Pointing out that many schools would be unable to provide adequate water facilities so that the children washed their hands frequently, she said, “The school managements cannot ensure that the parents, who visit the schools to deliver lunch for their kids, maintained social distance.” State Platform for Common School System – Tamil Nadu (SPCSS-TN) general secretary PB Prince Gajendra Babu added that maintaining physical distance among the students and teachers would be a difficult task for school managements.
Another big question is how social distance can be maintained among students at the entry and exit point of the schools, he said, adding, “It will also consume several hours for all the students to get their hand sanitised at the entry point”.
Expressing similar views, Kancheepuram District Parents-Teachers Association deputy secretary S Parandhaman said the Directorate of School Education should undertake a detailed study across the State to ensure the safety of both students and teachers before announcing the opening of the institutions.

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