A workable compromise for public school classrooms

E CARTOON MAY 30, 2020

The opening of classes in the Philippines this coming school year remains an open  question.  President Duterte  said  this week  he is against opening schools until a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed.

“I  will not allow the opening  of classes na magdidikit-dikit  yang mga bata  (where the children get close to each other),”  he said. “Without a vaccine, it’s  really dangerous. It spells disaster.”

The school  year  in the Philippines has traditionally opened  in  June but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Education  decided to postpone  it to August 24, about three months from now,  hoping that by then. a COVID-19  will have ceased to pose a danger to young pupils gathering in classes. The August opening is in line with the provision  of RA  7977 that the school year shall start “on the first Monday of June but no later than the last day of August.”

Around the world today, dozens  of clinical trials are being held for potential  COVID-19 vaccines. At least six vaccines are now being tested on  people, according to the Faster  Cures  Center at the Milken Institute in Washington, DC. But v accines take time to test thoroughly, so the public is likely to wait a year or more, it said.

In the meantime, treatments  may save lives or lessen the severity of the disease.  Researchers around the world are now experimenting with more  than  130 drugs. One drug – Remdesivir – had good results in its tests;  early  results show 68 percent needed less  oxygen support after  treatment with the drug.

But the  World Health Organization Monday halted the testing of  the drug Hydroxychloroquiine – which had been promoted by US President Trump --  after studies found  that it actually increased the risk of death.

With  dim expectations for an  early development of a vaccine or a cure for COVID-19, we may not have an August school  opening -- unless President  Duterte accept  the possibility that pupils and students can  still maintain the proper distance from one another  by  rearranging the chairs and keeping class numbers down.  Plus  requiring  face masks  at all  times.

Private schools have been given the option of holding virtual classes, but many pupils in our public schools do not have such capability in their homes.  Actual face-to-face  classroom sessions are still needed  in our  public schools.

We laud President  Duterte’s concern for the safety  of the nation’s school children, but it would be unfortunate if they miss the coming  school year because no vaccine is likely to be developed  any time soon. Physical distancing and face masks for children in public schools might be  a workable compromise.