Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said that the ‘’learner support aides’’ that the Department of Education (DepEd) planned to hire should only be deployed in low-risk areas and that rigorous health standards should be observed to prevent an uptick in COVID-19 cases when the country officially opens classes on Oct. 5.
Gatchalian likened the idea of learner support aides to learning pods, which are sometimes called pandemic pods, nano-schools, or micro-schools. These are small gatherings of between three to 10 children for face-to-face instruction and social interaction.
These pods have become popular in the United States as some parents with small children said they were worried their kids would not have the attention spans needed for online learning.
Some pods are hiring teachers to teach children's curriculum, others share responsibilities with parents.
DepEd Undersecretary Jesus Mateo said that the department is finalizing guidelines on the hiring of learner support aides, which include tutors and para-teachers.
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture, said learner support aides will help parents who cannot assist their children in home-based learning.
“We can deploy learner support aides immediately to low risk areas. We just need to make sure that they will pass rigorous health tests or health standards. They should observe social distancing and wearing of masks. Kailangang magdoble ingat (There is a need to be extra cautious). Inviting anyone to our homes can increase the risk of infection,” Gatchalian said.
The hiring of teacher-assistants, according to the senator, is authorized under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Republic Act 11494), or Bayanihan 2.
To meet the funding requirements for the hiring of these teacher-assistants, the unused balance of DepEd's 2020 “New School Personnel Positions” and “Basic Education Facilities” appropriations are realigned to the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) for “Operations of Schools-Elementary, Junior and Senior High School” under its “Support to Schools and Learners Program.”