July 20, 2020 – As several local government units and private schools are requesting to hold limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas, the Department of Education (DepEd) is still aligning with the President’s pronouncement of not allowing physical classes for School Year 2020-2021.
The proposal came from a number of lawmakers including Senators Nancy Binay and Imee Marcos, Batanes lone district Rep. Ciriaco Gato Jr and Davao Del Norte (1st District) representative Pantaleon Alvarez. Private school associations Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) and Federation of Associations of Private School Administrators (FAPSA) also supported the said proposal.
Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones reported this development to the President last July 15, 2020 but maintained that DepEd is preparing for a school year that will mainly utilize distance learning.
“Our preparation for SY 2020-2021 is consistent with this directive as we gear up our learning delivery modalities towards distance learning nationwide. Our field units have been developing materials for modular, online, and TV- and radio-based instructions while our teachers and parents are being trained for this new normal in education,” Secretary Briones said.
Briones also noted that only the President, with recommendations from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), can decide on changing his previous pronouncement in favor of allowing limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.
Should it be changed, the Education chief said that DepEd is prepared to strictly implement precautionary measures and required health standards for face-to-face set-up in accordance with the DOH Guidelines on the Risk-Based Public Health Standards for COVID-19 Mitigation (DOH AO No. 2020-0015). The Department follows four COVID-19 mitigation objectives to increase physical and mental resilience, reduce transmission, reduce contact, and reduce duration of infection.
Briones cited that face-to-face option may be feasible in very low risk areas such as the geographically isolated, disadvantaged, and conflict affected areas (GIDCA) with no history of infection and with easily monitored external contacts.
If greenlighted by the President, any face-to-face learning delivery must have proper risk assessment and must adhere to the health protocols in place. In addition, potential learning spaces in the community near the school may be explored to add spaces for the conduct of classes with the appropriate physical distancing.
These schools must also follow programs promoting good hygiene and mental health resiliency and comply with the Policy and Guidelines for the Comprehensive Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Schools (WINS) Program (DO 010, s. 2016).
In addition, designated isolation areas, aligned with the standards set by DOH, for school and offices must be set-up while students, teachers, and personnel who will be entering the school/office premises must use protective masks. Regular disinfection of schools and offices will also be conducted.
“Though our preparations, and with the continuous collaboration with communities, our commitment to protect the health, safety and well-being of learners, teachers and personnel remains our topmost priority, with or without the greenlight for limited face-to-face classes,” Briones said.