Duterte OKs limited face-to-face classes

a person sitting at a table in a room© The Manila Times

Updated: 1:00 am Sept. 21, 2021

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has approved the proposal of the Department of Education (DepEd) for limited face-to-face classes in basic education.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said on Monday the President signed the combined guidelines of the DepEd, the Department of Health, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and experts on child education.

Also consulted in drawing the guidelines were the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, Philippine Pediatric Society, Philippine Society of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, Philippine College of Occupational Medicine, Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians, Association of Municipal Health Officers of the Philippines and the Philippine Private School Health Officers’ Association, Briones said.

In-person classes will be tried out in 100 public schools in areas with low Covid-19 risk and 20 private schools.

The classes will be voluntary and the students must have the consent of their parents or guardians, the Education department said in a statement.

Classes will be limited to 12 learners per classroom for Kindergarten, 16 learners for Grades 1 to 3 and up to 20 learners for senior high school students taking the technical-vocational strand.

Kindergarten to Grade 3 students can only stay within the school premises for a maximum of three hours a day. Senior high school students can stay for a maximum of four hours a day.

“The conduct of the limited face-to-face will be different from the face-to-face that we are familiar with. There will be no daily continuous face-to-face; it will be scheduled and strictly monitored,” Briones said.

The classes will be conducted for two months with a combination of face-to-face classes in school for half a day every other week and distance learning modalities.

Briones said teachers and nonteaching personnel below the age of 65 and without any comorbidities can participate regardless of their vaccination status.

Once an assessment of limited face-to-face classes shows they are safe and effective, DepEd may propose its expansion, said Briones.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) welcomed the gradual reopening of schools.

“This is a significant step toward improving the delivery of education amid the pandemic and is direly needed amid grave learning loss and inaccessibility of distance learning to the youth who mostly belong to impoverished families,” ACT said in a statement.

The group said the safe return to schools should also involve the retrofitting of classrooms to implement health protocols, installing adequate health facilities (comfort rooms, hand-washing facilities and school clinics), hiring health and sanitation personnel, providing free medical supplies and personal protective equipment, and ensuring safe modes of transportation for participating teachers and students.

“DepEd and the rest of the Duterte government shall ensure that these needs are met in order for the two-month pilot run of limited face-to-face classes to be successful,” ACT said.

The results of the pilot test will “allow the government to complete its roadmap toward the eventual safe reopening of schools across the country while it simultaneously improves its medical and socioeconomic responses to the pandemic,” it added.

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