The Department of Education (DepEd) on Monday expressed readiness to “strictly implement” precautionary measures as with required health standards for limited face-to-face classes if President Duterte gives it the greenlight.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones maintained only the President, with recommendations from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), can decide on the matter despite continued insistence of some lawmakers as with private schools.
Among these are Senators Nancy Binay and Imee Marcos, Batanes lone district Rep. Ciriaco Gato Jr and Davao Del Norte (1st District) representative Pantaleon Alvarez.
Private school associations such as Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) and Federation of Associations of Private School Administrators (FAPSA) have also been batting for the same, DepEd said.
Should it push through, Briones said that DepEd is prepared to “strictly implement” precautionary measures and required health standards in accordance with the DOH Guidelines on the Risk-Based Public Health Standards for COVID-19 Mitigation.
Briones noted that the DepEd currently follows four COVID-19 mitigation objectives: to increase physical and mental resilience, reduce transmission, reduce contact, and reduce the duration of infection.
Briones agreed limited face-to-face classes may be “feasible in very low risk areas” such as the geographically isolated, disadvantaged, and conflict affected areas (GIDCA) with “no history of infection and with easily monitored external contacts.”
“If greenlighted by the President, any face-to-face learning delivery must have proper risk assessment and must adhere to the health protocols in place,” DepEd said. “In addition, potential learning spaces in the community near the school may be explored to add spaces for the conduct of classes with the appropriate physical distancing,” it added.
Briones added that these schools must also follow programs promoting good hygiene and mental health resiliency and comply with the Policy and Guidelines for the Comprehensive Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Schools (WINS) Program.
“In addition, designated isolation areas, aligned with the standards set by DOH, for school and offices must be set-up while students, teachers, and personnel who will be entering the school/office premises must use protective masks,” DepEd said. “Regular disinfection of schools and offices will also be conducted,” it added.
At the moment, however, DepEd said that it is “still aligning with the President’s pronouncement of not allowing physical classes” for School Year (SY) 2020-2021.
Last July 15, Briones shared the DepEd is preparing for a school year that will “mainly utilize” blended/distance learning.
“Our preparation for SY 2020-2021 is consistent with this directive as we gear up our learning delivery modalities towards distance learning nationwide,” she said.
Briones added that DepEd’s field units have been developing materials for modular, online, and TV- and radio-based instructions while teachers and parents are being trained for the so-called “new normal” in education.
Briones assured that DepEd is ready for school opening “with the continuous collaboration with communities, our commitment to protect the health, safety and well-being of learners, teachers and personnel remains our topmost priority.”