There are 300 public schools nationwide “ready” to hold limited face-to-face classes once approved by President Duterte and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), the Department of Education (DepEd) said on Monday, June 21.
During a virtual press conference for the celebration of the 123rd founding anniversary of DepEd, Education Secretary Leonor Briones revealed that to date, there are 300 schools ready for the pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes.
“Originally, there were 1,900 schools approved by the regional directors for the pilot implementation [of limited face-to-face classes] but the Senate said it was still too many so we reduced it to 600 [schools],” Briones said in a mix of English and Filipino.
To date, Briones said that DepEd has “reduced this number further” to 300 schools to ensure that stringent implementation will be in place once the government finally allows the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes for basic education.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Philippine schools have remained closed since March 2020.
In October, the School Year (SY) 2020-2021 formally opened but the over 26 million learners at the basic education level have remained at their homes and continued their lessons under distance learning.
Recognizing that face-to-face learning remains crucial in the overall growth and development of students, DepEd formally proposed to the President to allow the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes in low or no risk areas in December.
Initially, the President approved the pilot testing – which was scheduled early in January 2021 – but he recalled his decision following the detection of other COVID-19 variants in the country.
The current school year is scheduled to end on July 10.
Briones said that as part of DepEd’s preparations for the opening of the SY 2021-2022, regional offices have been conducting assessments of schools that can be used for the possible pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes.
Meanwhile, Briones said that there are certain considerations before schools can implement limited face-to-face classes. “Facilities should be ready, our schools should be ready,” she said.
The pilot implementation of face-to-face classes will take place only in areas categorized as low-risk at least under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) and there “must be a commitment for shared responsibility of DepEd, the local government unit (LGU), the parents or guardians and the providers of transportation.”
DepEd added that “stringent health and safety standards shall be followed at home, during travel to and from the schools, and within school premises.”
Moreover, Briones said that “businesses or enterprises offering services such as transportation or canteen will have to comply with the standards set.”
While DepEd continues to prepare for the possible resumption of limited face-to-face classes, this will depend on the decision of the President, the IATF and the overall health situation in the country.
“This might change and would largely depend on the behavior of the variants,” Briones explained – noting that DepEd is preparing for all possibilities.
“The implementation can be extensive or nothing at all, it is also possible that this will not be implemented for all schools,” Briones said.
“There are so many factors to consider before we implement the pilot testing but we are continuously monitoring not just local developments but international as well,” she added.