The government has approved the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes in select schools in areas identified with low COVID-19 cases, Malacañang announced.
In a press briefing on Sept. 20, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the list of schools will be based on the assessment of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Education (DepEd).
“Kailangan may suporta ng local government units sa pamamagitan ng resolution o letter of support at kinakailangan po mayroon written support and consent ng mga magulang,” the spokesperson said.
Roque added that the pilot run of in-person classes will go for two months and will only be held “half a day every other week” and with this, blended learning will still be implemented.
In the same briefing, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said 100 public and 20 private schools in low-risk areas are being eyed to participate in the pilot face-to-face classes, where they have to pass the readiness assessment by the DOH and DepEd. Strict health and safety protocols will also be implemented in the set up.
According to Briones, each class in Kindergarten should only have a maximum of 12 students with not more than three hours in the classroom.
For Grades 1 to 3, only 16 students are allowed with a maximum of three hours per session.
And only 20 Senior High School students will be allowed in five senior high schools, with face-to-face classes for up to four hours.
These limited face-to-face classes will be carefully monitored, the secretary said.
The school year in the Philippines officially opened on Sept. 13, with students still under remote learning. Briones said there is no specific start date yet for the face-to-face classes but is confident that the educators are ready to take on the new setup as it has been discussed for months now.
Vaccination ‘not mandatory’ for teachers for pilot run
In the briefing, Briones said teachers and staff who are 65 years old and below and without comorbidities may join the program regardless of their vaccination status.
“This is because of the human rights declaration tungkol sa right of individuals concerning their health,” she said.
Though vaccination is not yet “mandatory, but voluntary” for teachers in limited in-person classes, Briones is confident that there is now a significant number of teachers who have already been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to UNICEF, the Philippines and Venezuela are the only two remaining countries in the world that are yet to have in-person classes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without the face-to-face learning in the Philippines, UNICEF says it affects “the right to learn of more than 27 million Filipino students.”
The organization is also advocating for a “phased reopening of schools, beginning in low-risk areas,” which can be done “on a voluntary basis with proper safety protocols in place.”
Banner and thumbnail photo by Boy Santos/The Philippine STAR