Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Thursday, Oct. 7, clarified that student participation in the pilot study of limited face-to-face classes set to start next month will not be mandatory.
“Ang isa sa mga requirements natin sa Shared Responsibility ay may permission ang mga parents, papayag sila na yung kanilang mga anak ay sasali kasi ito ay pilot, walang sapilitan kasi patuloy pa rin ang ating blended learning (Among our requirements in the Shared Responsibility is that parents have to give permission that they will allow their children to participate because it is a pilot, it will not be mandatory because blended learning continues),” Briones said in a virtual press briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
Briones reiterated that participation in the pilot study is voluntary. Students also need to get consent from their parents first before they will be allowed to attend limited in-person classes in selected schools.
Prepare contingency plans
To allay fears of parents of children who will be participating in the pilot run, Briones said that the schools selected are required to prepare contingency plans in case a student or personnel tests positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Briones added that mechanisms will be in place should a student, teacher or personnel contracts COVID-19. “Lahat ng schools, nire-require natin na gumawa ng contingency plan, step-by-step, kung ano gagawin nila kung magkaroon ng ganoong klaseng danger (all schools will be required to have contingency plans so they will know what to do, step-by-step when there’s that kind of danger), she added.
As announced, the pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes will start on Nov. 15.
So far, only 59 out of the 120 target participating schools have been allowed to hold limited in-person classes.
Should parents refuse to have their children join the pilot study, she assured that the students will continue learning their lessons through various alternative learning delivery modalities being implemented this school year.
For those who will participate, Briones said that the number of hours the students will stay in school will be regulated.
She added that the limited in-person sessions will also be complemented by distance or blended learning modalities since the students will not be asked to come to school everyday.
Based on the joint memorandum circular crafted by DepEd and the Department of Health (DOH), the schools selected for the pilot run should set-up a COVID-19 hotline or a Help Desk. This will connect them with local government units (LGUs), hospitals, and testing facilities in case of emergency.
In case of a possible COVID-19 infection and resurgence, schools were also required to “prepare a contingency plan for closing and reopening.”