Schools in Punjab for students of Class 5 to 12 reopened from today. The state's School Education Department on Thursday issued detailed guidelines for educational institutes in areas outside containment zones to ensure students' safety amid the coronavirus pandemic. The schools will remain open from 10 am to 3 pm.

Punjab School Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla on Wednesday had informed that schools in the state for classes V to XII will reopen from January 7 with Covid-19 protocols in place. The schools will remain open from 10 am to 3 pm.

However, Singla emphasized today that online or distance learning shall continue to be the preferred mode of teaching, despite the reopening of schools, and attendance of all students will not be mandatory.

"As the schools are already conducting online classes, and parents of some students prefer to attend online classes rather than physically attend school, they may be permitted to do so. The students will be able to attend the physical classes only with the written consent of parents," the Minister was quoted as saying in the release.

Singla said that the parents should also ensure and encourage that their wards wear mask and full-sleeves clothes while attending schools to minimize the interaction with any public surface and educate them to not exchange the masks with others.

"If the strength of the students is large in the school and social distancing norms are not maintainable, in that case, school head or management may take a decision whether to hold the classes in two shifts or call the students at alternate days, at their own level," the release read.

The School Education Minister said that the staff and students belonging to containment zones shall not attend the school and other educational institutions, and added that as per the recommendations of Union Health Ministry, older, pregnant and other employees who have underlying medical conditions to take extra precautions, should preferably not be exposed to any frontline work requiring direct contact with the students.

As per the state government, schools will have to mark the seats of students in classrooms ensuring a distance of a minimum of six feet, and similarly, social distancing shall also be maintained in the staffrooms, office area, hostels, and other places of public interaction.