The excitement of finally reopening select Philippine schools for limited face-to-face classes was marred by concerns after two public schools in Zambales postponed its scheduled activities on Monday, Nov. 15.
In a phone interview, Assistant Schools Division Superintendent of SDO Zambales Michelle Mejica confirmed that two schools — Baliwet Elementary School and San Marcelino National High School — postponed the first day of face-to-face classes.
The reason? Five teachers tested positive for COVID-19 using rapid antigen test (RAT) a day before the first day of pilot face-to-face classes started.
“Before they went up to the schools, they underwent COVID-19 testing yesterday and unfortunately, we had teachers who tested positive in the RAT,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Mejica said that the DepEd and local government unit (LGU) await the confirmatory tests of these teachers. “Up until they are cleared, we will not start the face-to-face classes because we don’t want to compromise the health and safety of our teachers and especially our students,” she added.
All 75 teachers in Zambales, Mejica said, are required by the LGU to get tested first before they attend pilot face-to-face classes in their respective areas.
Mejica said that part of the agreement with the LGU for the pilot face-to-face classes is to require DepEd teachers to get tested for COVID-19 on top of being fully vaccinated.
“Although testing is not a requirement, the LGU offered all teachers to be tested at least,” Mejica said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Reasonable and crucial
In a separate statement, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines reiterated its demand for screening testing which “proved to be not only reasonable but crucial” especially in the case of Zambales.
“The antigen testing of those teachers which yielded positive results has saved a lot of co-workers and learners from possible exposure to the COVID-19 virus,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said.
“Clearly, screening testing can intelligently guide safe school reopening, and assuage the worries of teachers and learners,” he added.
Basilio said that the government “should not scrimp” on the needs of safe school reopening as key measures will bolster health protection and pave the way to addressing learning loss experienced by the country when schools were locked down.
“There are many affordable antigen test kits that can be availed, and the government can get them at cheaper prices if bought in bulk,” Basilio said.
Citing its own estimate, ACT said that if around 100 teachers and learners in 100 schools participating in the pilot run will be tested weekly using antigen testing kits worth P400 each in the next two months, the government will only need to shell out about P32 million.
“This is a small amount to pay for the safety and peace of mind of everyone,” Basilio said.
“It is just a small portion of the DepEd funds, and even a lesser part of the whole government’s budget,” he added.