What would the new face of in-person learning look like?

Since the government ordered the closure of schools in 2020 due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation in the country, classrooms in both public and private schools have been empty.

Even if it is still not yet allowed by the government, the Department of Education (DepEd) remains firm that face-to-face classes - even on a limited scale - is a necessity for millions of learners and the education sector, as a whole.

(AFP Photo / File photo / MANILA BULLETIN)

Given this, DepEd has repeatedly recommended to President Duterte to allow the pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes in low risk areas since last year.

As it awaits for the approval of the President, the DepEd continues to prepare for the possible resumption limited face-to-face classes on a pilot basis.

Far from what it used to

DepEd Undersecretary for Human Resource and Organizational Development Jess Mateo, in a radio interview last week, said that the resumption of face-to-face classes has been among the priorities of DepEd even as it implements alternative learning delivery modalities this school year.

“It’s hard to tell what the learning set-up for next school would be,” Mateo said in Filipino when asked if current learning modalities would still be implemented in School Year (SY) 2020-2021.

At this point, Mateo noted that blended learning - or the combination of two or more modalities including modular, online, television and radio-based instruction - will still be an option for students.

Despite the uncertainties brought about by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation in the country, Mateo said that DepEd continues to prepare to ensure that learning will continue - regardless of its form.

To prepare for the SY 2021-2022 opening, DepEd will conduct the Early Registration for Grades 1, 7 and 11 students starting March 26 to April 30. Parents and learners are encouraged to register remotely to ensure their health and safety.

Major facelift underway

Should DepEd be allowed to hold limited face-to-face classes, Mateo said that those who are having difficulties under the distance learning will be prioritized. “The independent learners will probably asked to stay under online or other modalities,” he added.

Mateo also noted that there will be major changes in the physical layout of classrooms to ensure that schools will comply to the protocols set by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

“Inside the classroom, it’s possible to put up acrylic barriers, there will also be social distancing of 1.5 to 2 meters,” Mateo said. “Wearing of face masks and face shields will also be required for both learners and teachers,” he added.

However, he noted that these might incur additional expenses for the schools and their respective local government units (LGUs). “We have problems in revenue due to the pandemic and honestly, DepEd cannot provide for everything - we have to ask Congress for help,” he explained.

Mateo said that once allowed, the number of students to attend the dry run of face-to-face classes will be limited. “Not everyone will be allowed, instead of the usual 30 learners inside the classroom, we are looking cut the number into half - around 15,” he explained.

During the dry run of face-to-face classes, Mateo said the the schedule will also be adjusted. From the usual six hours, the students will only be allowed to stay inside the school for about two to three hours. “Eating inside the school premises might not be allowed to ensure their safety,” he added.

Mateo shared that there will also be different combinations or scenarios - depending on the local situation and capacity of the schools.

“We have to make sure it’s not crowded so we might implement four-day or three-day school week, on alternate days of the week,” he said. “Our priority will be be the interaction between the learners and the teachers,” he added.

Aside from the adjustments needed inside the campus, Mateo said that there are also other considerations.

“There are other factors and variables that need to be considered to ensure the safety of students and teachers like the availability of transportation and capability of schools - to name a few,” he said. “This is also why we are asking the DepEd regional offices to recommend certain configurations that are appropriate for their areas,” he ended.