DepEd ensures safety, welfare of personnel amid pandemic

The Department of Education (DepEd) on Monday assured it continues to ensure the safety and welfare of teachers and other personnel amid the growing number of COVID-19 cases within the agency.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones (DepEd / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

During the “Handang Isip, Handa Bukas” virtual press briefing, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that aside from the BE-LCP - which provides the framework and details of learning opportunities and deliveries in the time of COVID-19 - minimum health standards are also in place to protect the health, safety and well-being of learners, teachers and personnel, and prevent the further transmission of COVID-19.

“If there are cases when the teachers get infected, we cannot say exactly where they get it but what we can assure is that we are doing everything we can to ensure their safety,” Briones said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Briones assured “all safety precautions are in place” for both teaching and non-teaching personnel under DepEd’s BE-LCP..

The LCP, she added, also aims to facilitate the safe return of teaching and non-teaching personnel and learners to work and schools, based on scenarios projected by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) - complemented by other credible sources, and balanced by DepEd’s own risk assessments.

Aside from minimum health standards in schools and workplaces, DepEd has also reconfigured its annual school preparation programs to focus on addressing the needs of schools, teachers, and students.

DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said that among the first initiatives of the agency - as a response to COVID-19 in education - is to “review the budget for realignment.”

When it comes to funding requirements to implement the provisions cited in the DepEd’s guidelines on required health standards in basic education offices and schools, Sevilla said that these “shall be charged to available funds” in the central office, regional offices, schools division offices, schools or community learning centers under the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

These may also be funded using other sources of funds as a result of partnerships with the local government units (LGUs), the private sector, and other non-government organizations.

Sevilla added that all cost implications should be ranked according to the priority needs of the offices and schools. “Utilization of funds for this purpose shall be subject to applicable procurement, accounting, and auditing rules and regulations,” she added.

Other ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of teachers and other personnel is coordinating with external partners. Through the “Brigada Eskwela” program, DepEd said that there are donated items such as tents, thermal scanners, sanitizing materials such as rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, and soap; cleaning tools and materials, disinfectants, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), face masks (surgical or disposable), hygiene kits, blood donation, and food packs. These are distributed to learners, DepEd teaching and non-teaching personnel, frontliners, underprivileged families, local communities, senior citizens, and volunteers.

As of August 23, DepEd said that there are 823 confirmed cases within the agency including personnel and learners. 310 are active cases, with 490 recoveries and 23 fatalities.