This website requires JavaScript.

‘First Week Of Face-To-Face Pilot COVID-Free’

‘First Week Of Face-To-Face Pilot COVID-Free’
Teachers at St. Mary Elementary School in Marikina City place duct tapes on desks on Nov. 13, 2021 to ensure physical distancing among students who will take part in the pilot face-to-face classes amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Boy Santos, The Philippine STAR

No COVID infections were recorded in the first week of the “fairly successful” pilot resumption of in-person classes in the country, the Department of Education (DepEd) reported on Tuesday, Nov. 23.

The DepEd started pilot face-to-face (F2F) classes in 100 public schools on Nov. 15 and 18 private schools on Monday, Nov. 22.

Earlier, three public schools in Zambales postponed the reopening of in-person classes after some teachers tested positive in an antigen test mandated by the local government.

The schools were able to resume classes in the middle of the week after confirmatory reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR test showed the teachers were negative for the virus.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the pilot resumption of F2F classes was fairly successful.

Briones added education officials received feedback that teachers and learners faced challenges in the in-person classes.

Issues such as funding, particularly for health essentials, and compliance with health and safety protocols were among the challenges that teachers and students faced during the pilot implementation of the program.

DepEd said it received reports that young learners, especially those in the Kindergarten level, tend to take off their masks and change seats as well as forget to practice physical distancing.

Reports also stated some visitors did not log in or violated the entrance and exit points of the campus, and improper disposal of infectious waste materials was observed during the program.

DepEd noted that some parents of the students were still unvaccinated.

Some students said they could not clearly hear the teachers due to the masks they were wearing and could not see the writings on the board due to physical distancing.

According to Briones, DepEd is taking all these feedback into consideration to make an overall assessment before expanding the implementation of the pilot F2F classes.

She said the department hopes to finish the pilot study by December and submit the overall assessment before the expansion of the pilot study next year.

Briones added it is possible that Metro Manila could be included in the expanded phase of the pilot in-person classes but risk assessment is crucial, especially in high-density areas, including Metro Manila and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon).

Briones stressed the agency is still monitoring the COVID and health situation in the local governments to ensure that children will be safe not only when they are in school, but also when go-ing in and out of the campus.

She said some mayors and local chief executives are still hesitant to reopen in-person classes in basic education.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) announced colleges and universities in areas under Alert Level 2 including Metro Manila might start F2F classes in all degree programs by December.

CHED chairman J. Prospero de Vera III said they are targeting the expanded F2F classes in areas under Alert Level 3 by January.

By December, schools under Alert Level 2, including Metro Manila where there are the most schools, could start in-person classes, De Vera said at a virtual “Laging Handa” press briefing.

He said higher education institutions could start their classes once they get CHED authorization for meeting certain conditions.

These conditions include full vaccination of all participating students and faculty members, retrofitting of facilities to comply with minimum public health standards and coordination with local government units.

He expects higher education institutions would not have a hard time complying as there are around 200 schools that have secured CHED approval for in-person classes covering medicine and health-allied courses, as well as engineering, maritime and tourism.

De Vera said the mandatory vaccination is not just for higher education, but it was the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to limit the movement of unvaccinated individuals.

Data from CHED showed that about 42% of eligible students have been vaccinated, but this varies in some regions.

He said in-person classes would not be made mandatory for students as flexible learning options should still remain open for them until they are ready for in-person classes.

De Vera said schools and universities have expressed support for the National Vaccination Day slated for the end of the month.

Some medical students have started participating as vaccinators under the supervision of medical professionals in some schools.