‘Tuloy pa rin’: DepEd determined to expand face-to-face classes despite Omicron threat

Published December 10, 2021, 9:45 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Hoping that the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant will not be as dangerous as the earlier versions, the Department of Education (DepEd) said that plans to expand the implementation of limited face-to-face in basic education will push through.

Simulation of face-to-face classes at Comembo Elementary School in Makati City on Dec.2,2021. (MANNY LLANES / MANILA BULLETIN)

In a virtual press briefing on Friday, Dec. 10, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that the DepEd is keeping an eye on the developments related to the Omicron variant.

“During the conduct [of pilot face-to-face classes] and until now, we don’t have cases of COVID infections in the pilot schools and that is very, very good news,” Briones said. “Omicron, as far as we know, has not entered the Philippines,” she added.

Citing the “latest updates” from the scientific community and from experts, Briones noted that “Omicron may not be as virulent, as dangerous, [or] as vicious as the earlier versions.”

Pilot face-to-face classes to proceed

Briones said that when the news about Omicron came out, DepEd was already asked what will happen to its schools that are implementing pilot face-to-face classes.

“My answer was, that ‘we will proceed’ because Omicron is not here, we cannot wait for Omicron to come in and then we will cancel face-to-face again,” she said.

“The news so far gives some measure of comfort and hope coming from the experts that Omicron may not be as dangerous or as vicious as the earlier versions,” she added.

Given this, Briones explained that DepEd will continue its implementation of face-to-face classes and it might even push through with the plans to expand its coverage possibly by next year. “So, tuloy pa rin tayo [we will continue],” she said.

“So far, walang [there are no] infections and as you can see from report from the various regions, national reports, every step possible, every precaution possible to protect our children, our staff and our society is being undertaken so that we can proceed with face-to-face, limited as it may be, or expanded as it may be, and give our children the quality education that the Constitution mandates us to deliver,” she explained.

No pushing back

Asked if DepEd will push through with the planned expansion of limited face-to-face classes when the pilot run has been completed, possibly by next year, Briones answered in the affirmative.

“As far as we, at the policy level, are concerned, there is no pushing back — for as long as it is not here, for as long as danger is perceived to be milder or maybe even there is no danger at all,” Briones said.

“In the meantime, we proceed. We cannot stop,” she added.

Briones explained that President Duterte already gave his permission for DepEd and the Department of Health (DOH) to make decisions when it comes to expanding the coverage of the program.

However, DepEd should ensure that the protocols set by DOH are followed and that the same standards that were used for the pilot run will be observed.

This, Briones said, should include consent from the local government units (LGUs), written consent of parents, risk assessment and approval from DOH and “cooperation of all who are involved in the process of teaching and learning for the students.”

Meanwhile, DepEd Assistant Secretary Malcolm Garma said that when it comes to the conduct of limited face-to-face classes, part of the process is consultation with the DOH.

“We will take our cue from the DOH for whatever the situation will be with regards to the Omicron variant,” he said, adding that regardless of the variant, “our protocols are in place so will stick to that.”