The Department of Education (DepEd) on Tuesday announced limited face-to-face classes in low risk areas will be allowed starting next year with participating schools subject to set requirements.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in a televised public briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, said limited face-to-face classes in low risk areas was given the greenlight by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Ang liwanag naman ng sinabi niya na sang-ayon siya sa programang ito at ang mag-iimplement is DepEd (He was very clear that he agrees with the program and DepEd will implement it),” Briones said.
Briones said interested schools would have to seek permission from DepEd first.
“They will write a letter to the regional director and they will be the ones to approve this subject to review and approval,” Briones said in Filipino.
Briones noted that the regional directors of DepEd were already instructed to make an assessment as to which schools are ready for limited face-to-face classes.
“I think the implementation of this program would not be very complicated because the structure is already in place,” she added.
Not for all
Based on the the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) of DepEd, which was adopted by the IATF in May, face-to-face classes among various learning delivery modalities will be allowed but dependent on the local COVID Risk Severity Classification and compliance with minimum health standards.
However, the component was removed when the President declared he will not allow physical classes until a vaccine against COVID-19 has been found.
As school opening nears, Briones said the DepEd has been received queries from local chief executives, legislators, private and international schools, and other education stakeholders on whether the conduct of limited face-to-face classes in areas where it is deemed safe to do so by the IATF and the DOH may be allowed.
While DepEd has allowed limited face-to-face classes in select areas, Briones clarified that this set-up is not “automatic for all schools.”
“We will not force the schools and the learners to attend limited face-to-face classes if their parents do not want to,” she explained.
Based on the guidelines of DepEd, limited face-to-face classes will only be allowed only in low risk areas or those already at least under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) or in the transition phase between GCQ and the New Normal.
“Face-to-face classes will be allowed in January, 2021, or the third quarter of the school year,” Briones said. “However, private schools which have started limited face-to-face classes last June will be allowed to continue,”she added.
Briones said the schedule will allow the school system to settle into the various distance learning modalities.
“At present, DepEd is preoccupied with all the preparations for distance learning,” she explained. “Deferring the allowance of limited face-to-face to January next year will enable DepEd to focus on the broader and more urgent need for readiness for distance learning.”
As soon as DepEd has settled into the operational requirements of distance learning, Briones said “we can then allocate the requisite time for preparations for limited face-to-face classes – such preparations include ensuring the health standards are in place, and pilot simulations and dry-runs are conducted similar to what the Department is doing now with respect to distance learning.”
Overall, Briones said that limited face-to-face learning basic education will only be allowed if “strictly regulated” and if schools will comply with the requirements set by the agencies.
Aside from being located in low risk areas by the IATF, Briones said that schools will only be allowed to hold limited face-to-face classes if they are “harmonious with the state of physical facilities of DepEd; the sizes of the classroom meet the requirements for social distancing and classrooms must be in a standard physical condition.”
“Schools must meet the minimum health standards of the DOH and the host local government unit must be ready to support financially as well as in other ways the requirements for limited face-to-face learning,” Briones ended.