The Department of Education (DepEd) highly discouraged teaching and non-teaching personnel from physically reporting to schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic, even in low risk areas.
DepEd issued the clarification in a memorandum signed by Undersecretary Jesus Mateo and Undersecretary Revsee Escobedo dated June 22.
It reminded that while the agency strives for the continuity of basic education services, “we remain committed in protecting the health and safety of our personnel.”
The DepEd stressed “precautionary measures must be observed at all times” in order to contain the infection and avoid transmission among personnel and the community that could further hamper service delivery in the offices and schools or community learning centers (CLS).
As cited in the memorandum, DepEd said that a Work from Home (WFH) arrangement is “still highly recommended for both teaching and non-teaching personnel” – especially for functions that can be rendered through alternative strategies and remote modalities.
DepEd has also provided a menu of alternative work arrangements (AWA) options and guidance to schools/offices/CLCs and personnel “on the work arrangement that is most applicable to them.”
“Optimal or full operational capacity does not necessarily correspond to the full workforce physically reporting to the workplace/onsite,” DepEd said.
it added, “In exceptional cases, the offices/schools/CLCs requiring physical reporting must ensure that the workplace is compliant with the Safe Return to Work protocols.”
Meanwhile, “For schools that were used as quarantine or isolation facilities,” the DepEd said physical reporting shall be prohibited until such time that a certification from the proper health authorities is issued declaring the school as safe and fit for education purposes.”
In determining the applicable AWA per individual, DepEd said those who are 21 years old and below; 60 years old and above; pregnant women, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidities or other health risks, illnesses and/or pre-existing medical conditions including those who reside with Suspect or Probable Case should be reconsidered by local DepEd or school officials.
DepEd also noted personnel who encounter difficulty reporting due to the imposition of strict community quarantine, curfew, limited or no access to transportation options, and/or other regulatory limitations on travel – should also be given utmost consideration.
Despite the issuance of this directive, the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) alleged there are still school officials who require teachers to physically report to schools.
The TDC, a 30,000-strong group, said that an initial list of Schools Division offices (SDOs) with reported cases of schools that require physical reporting has been submitted to the Office of Education Secretary Leonor Briones for validation.
The group also reiterated its appeal for DepEd to implement “strict observance” of health protocols and work arrangements in schools and offices.
“This pandemic is a serious threat to life and safety of our teachers, thus, the DepEd should take this seriously as well,” TDC said.