Amid surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, the Department of Education (DepEd) reiterated that the use of schools as isolation facilities and/or vaccination sites should be only considered as a “last resort.”
Education Secretary Leonor Briones explained that even at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, DepEd has been firm in its stand that using public schools as isolation facilities should be avoided as much as possible.
This, she noted, is because not all schools have sufficient facilities to be used as isolation sites. Briones added that many public schools are also located near populated areas – making it unsafe for other people in these communities.
However, in support of the government’s fight against COVID-19, DepEd allowed its regional directors to decide on the requests made by the local government units (LGUs).
As the government rolls out its COVID-19 vaccination program, schools are being eyed again as vaccination sites by many LGUs. Just like in the use of schools as COVID-19 isolation sites, Briones reminded that plans to use schools as vaccination venues “should be carefully assessed” first.
“School buildings should only be used as a last resort if there is no other place [to be used],” Briones said.
Briones noted that schools are usually “reserved as evacuation sites” during calamities and disasters. “If it will be used as vaccination sites then there would be no more place for emergency evacuations,” she added.
However, Briones clarified that “if there really is no other place for vaccination except the school,” an assessment should be conducted by the Department of Health (DOH) first.
Using schools as vaccination sites, she added, should also be coordinated with concerned local executives. “The opinion of the LGU is very important because schools are located in their territories, we cannot go ahead and do our thing without their approval,” she added.
While DepEd has allowed the use of schools as vaccination sites “as a last resort,” Briones stressed that teachers “should not be utilized as vaccinators” in the government’s coronavirus vaccination program.