Schools in the city are preparing for changes that they will have to implement to maintain social distancing whenever the government allows them to resume classes on campus.
Reducing the strength of a class by half and live streaming lectures to the other half who will be at home, introducing shifts and staggering break timings are some of the measures the schools are contemplating.
Many of them believe masks and gloves will become part of the uniform and thermal (infrared) guns, which check body temperature, will be part of the school infrastructure. Besides, it will be mandatory to carry hand sanitisers
The first thing that most school heads are thinking about is reducing the strength of the class to almost half the number each day, so that all students do not have to turn up simultaneously. That will also prevent crowding on the buses in which they commute.
But attending school three days a week will not be enough to compensate for the classes lost because of the lockdown, and many institutions are thinking of continuing with online sessions they had started last month.
“Our technical team is looking into options as to how best the classes can be live streamed for the students who are at home on a particular day. Else, the syllabus will move at a snail’s pace. Those at home will have to follow the same timetable,” said Sharmila Bose, the principal of Sushila Birla Girls’ High School.
The principal of Apeejay Schools in Park Street and Salt Lake is pondering similar changes, as part of which a section of teachers will have to be kept free to take online classes.
Heritage School principal Seema Sapru feels schools will have to follow a “hybrid model of online and offline classes”.
“Schools will have to be less rigid about the structure, reinvent and design school spaces in a way to prevent crowding and contact,” said Devi Kar, the director of Modern High School for Girls.
“We cannot replace in-person thing completely but there is no harm in having a blend.”
Kar said the entire class would not be expected to do the same thing at the same time.
The schools are grappling with the problem arising out of the fact that not every student has a computer at home and hence, is not in a position to attend online classes.
Some of them also said that schools might have to operate in shifts.
“We have been suddenly thrown off our feet and we will have to make changes in our system. I have discussed it with my teachers and asked them to come up with ideas. One of the things we might have to think about is operating in shifts for the same strength of children. This would mean longer hours for teachers and shorter for children,” said John Bagul, the principal of South City International School.
Break time and dispersal and entry will also have to be staggered, else the whole purpose of operating in shifts will be defeated, teachers pointed out.
Bagul said the assemblies in the morning would have to be replaced by announcements over the public address system.
“There will have to be strict instructions for parents that they cannot send their children to school if they have the slightest cough or cold. There will have to be screening for body temperature at the entry to the school. Those found running a temperature will not be allowed to step into the campus,” said Terence Ireland, the principal of St James’ School.
Many teachers think that what has come to be regarded as social norms on campuses will have to be abandoned in the post-Covid-19 era, to ensure protection from the virus.
No more hugging the teacher, said one.
“We have always told our children to share something that they learn in school. But now we will have to tell them no more sharing the tiffin. Social values will have to change in the new set-up,” said Reeta Chatterjee, the principal of the Apeejay Schools.