Schools reopen at different dates depending upon their convenience and safety

With students in the country preparing for face to face teaching, the schools have come up with their own ideas to implement the health and other safety protocols to safely reopen schools.

The Education Ministry in collaboration with the Health Ministry carried out advocacy, sensitization, and orientation of the education officers, school heads and health coordinators of 609 schools using online services.

The Bhutanese interviewed some schools in the country on their preparedness for safely reopening schools.

Vice Principal of Phuentsholing Lower Secondary School, Ganga R Chhetri, said since the schools were occupied by the MDP loaders and Bhutanese living in Jaigaon, India for the entire year of 2020, the school buildings need to be cleaned and sanitized thoroughly. He said the school building is also under maintenance.

Due to these reasons, the reopening of schools for class IV to VIII is postponed till 15th of February and in later weeks PP to III will join the school too. But teachers have already reported in the school.

Principal of Gelephu Middle Secondary School, Wangmo, said since class IX and X students are still on campus and their home and board exams will be completed by 22nd March, class PP to VI students will be joining school on 16th February and class VII to X on 22nd March.

Since the school has about 500 students, it is going to be a regular and normal classes for them. Desuups have been deployed in all the schools in Gelephu. They will be supervising the entrance gate and monitor whether the students are following the health protocols such as physical distancing, wearing of mask and hand washing and other safety protocols.

Other than Gelephu sharing a porous border, it is also important to know the movement of students’ family in and out of the dzongkhag. The school has formed a surveillance team and every day the school is developing questionnaire forms as to whether any family members of the students have flu like symptoms. In addition, all the health protocols are put in place

“We are genuinely grateful to the Majesty for deploying desuups to schools. It’s a blessing and a great help to the school system,” she said.

The National COVID-19 Task Force and the MoE have been orientating the school faculties on the new normal.

After the meeting with staff, the Changzamtog Middle Secondary School in Thimphu has planned and announced that the class IV to VII will be opening on 15th February and class PP to III on 1st March.

The Principal Sonam Phuntsho said as per the government’s policy, class IV to VIII will be opening before 1st of March but depending upon the convenience of the school.

He said they already have class IX and X on campus and they will sit for home and board exams in March.

Sonam said since construction is going on and the existing classroom has been dismantled to construct the new one, classes PP to III will be following the shift system for about a month. Due to COVID-19, the construction could not be finished on time but it should be done by the end of March.

Desuups are deployed and have been briefed on their duties. The principal said the bigger challenge would be maintaining social distance among the students while on campus.

This challenge is not just confined to Changzamtog School but all schools.

Nevertheless, class X students have been asked to come around 8:30 am and class IX around 9 am to avoid overcrowding. As far as possible the school will be following this.

Also schools have planned to have different break timings for students on campus.

For children who need to visit the toilet during classes, the teacher will lead them so that the children will not spend time together while visiting the toilets, said Sonam.

When all the students join school, then all the 10 desuups will be spread around the school campus. There are more than 1,500 students bringing a lot of pressure on school admission. Desuups will be in the school for six months.

He said since it is a new normal, every individual has to be responsible and not just in school but even at home and town. He said the usage of masks and hand washing is a must. “Though there is online teaching but face to face interaction learning is important.”

“It is good that the school has been opened as the children have lost a year so there is a lot to cover up,” said Sonam.

While some schools in Paro have already reopened for the 2021 academic year. However, there are few schools where the date of school reporting has been postponed.

The Principal of Shaba Primary School in Paro, Lhabu said they have reopened schools as per the announced date. Children of classes IV to VI are already on campus and the school has already started with Value Education Classes. PP to III will come on 15th February. He said the school is able to implement safety measures such as hand-washing and wearing of mask at all times. The school has also received disinfecting sprayer to spray before and after school. Schools and DEOs are working together to come up with all the safety equipment. Also six Desuups have been deployed to monitor.

Currently there are class IV to VI students and the students know the importance of wearing face mask at all times. For that matter the school is not facing much problem since they are used to it. The only problem is maintaining social distancing. When all the students join schools, there will be more than 700 students.

Some of the middle secondary schools in Paro have postponed the date of reopening of schools.

Meanwhile, once the students join schools, random testing for students and teachers will be carried out every two weeks. Health focal persons have been identified to monitor compliance and surveillance on campus.

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