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Metro Manila Schools Join Pilot Of Limited F2F Classes

Metro Manila Schools Join Pilot Of Limited F2F Classes
Students of Tunasan National High School in Muntinlupa City recite their morning prayer during the start of face-to-face classes on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. The government allowed the limited resumption of in-person classes as COVID-19 cases in the country decreased. Photo by Russell Palma, The Philippine STAR

Twenty-eight schools in the National Capital Region (NCR) joined the limited pilot test of in-person learning beginning Monday, Dec. 6.

With more schools taking part in the pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian pressed the need for continued vigilance, especially as the world monitors the threat of the Omicron variant.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture, said expanding the pilot run of in-person learning should go hand in hand with accelerated vaccination of teachers and eligible learners, sustained implementation of minimum public health standards and regular COVID-19 testing for teachers.

“The expansion of the dry run of limited face-to-face classes is good news, but we must continue to take precautions and vaccinations, especially as we face the threat of the Omicron variant. Let’s use the opportunity we have to learn how we can ensure the safe return of young learners to schools,” he said.

Gatchalian also thanked teachers, personnel and school officials who led school preparations for in-person classes.

“I thank and pay tribute to the teachers, non-teaching staff, school officials, supervisors and superintendents for their continued dedication. From the outbreak of the pandemic to the gradual opening of our schools, our education frontliners have taken the lead in continuing education,” he said.

While it remains unclear whether the Omicron variant is more transmissible and causes more severe disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) maintained that effective public health measures such as physical distancing, wearing of masks, washing of hands and vaccination against COVID-19 should be continued.

A preliminary study by scientists from South Africa also indicated that compared with other variants such as Beta and Delta, Omicron is at least three times more likely to cause reinfection. The study has been uploaded to a preprint server and has not been peer-reviewed.


Gatchalian is also optimistic that all pupils and students will be able to attend face-to-face classes next year.

“For me, I am eyeing, and I am pushing for it, hopefully, by January we can already open but still on a limited capacity. All learners can go to school, but only thrice a week,” he said during the launch of the deployment of COMET electric minibuses in Valenzuela City on Monday.

The senator explained that classes would be done only three times a week because classrooms might get crowded.

Before the event, he joined Valenzuela City officials led by his brother and Mayor Rex Gatchalian in inspecting the reopening of classes – this time face-to-face – at Disiplina Village Bignay Elementary School and Tagalag Elementary School.

Before entering their schools, kindergarten to Grade 3 pupils – all donning their school uniforms and wearing face masks and face shields – were lined up at markers where they should stand.

They presented their quick response or QR codes to teachers, had their temperatures checked and sanitized their hands at the gates.

A classroom holds an average of 16 children.

The Valenzuela City government noted that the pupils would attend in-person classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for three to four hours only.

Strict health protocols

Meanwhile, the Taguig City government assured parents, students and teachers that strict health protocols would be enforced in schools where on-site classes have been rolled out for a pilot run.

Dr. George Tizon, city education office chief, said a local committee has set guidelines to ensure the safety of all those participating in on-site classes, including a set duration for each class day and the number of students who can be admitted per class.

“(A committee) composed of (Department of Health), (Department of Education) representatives from the city health office and the local government, together with DepEd Taguig-Pateros was made to make sure that health protocols and standards would be enforced for the safety of our students,” Tizon said.

The Sen. Renato Compañero Cayetano (SRCC) Memorial Science & Technology High School and the Ricardo P. Cruz Elementary School (RPCES), both in Taguig, were among the 28 participating schools in the pilot run of in-person classes in Metro Manila.

Under the guidelines, senior high school students at SRCC would be in class for a maximum of four and a half hours. About 15 students attended classes on Monday.

Twelve pupils in kindergarten and 16 each for Grades 1 to 3 were allowed to participate in three-hour classes at the RPCES.

Tizon said the government was also allowing “flexible learning” where 15 students are present on-site while the rest of the class are at home.

He added that teachers, non-teaching personnel, students and members of the parent-teacher association in other schools would be fully vaccinated.

‘Huge progress’

Almost two years after schools were closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora observed and inspected yesterday morning the opening of limited face-to-face classes at Pedro Cruz Elementary School (PCES).

Zamora said the pilot run includes students from kindergarten to Grade 3 who were given consent by their parents to attend physical classes again.

He added that the pupils were chosen based on a survey ran by the school administration.

PCES was chosen because it is one of the schools that was tagged as “low-risk” by the DepEd, according to the mayor.

“This is a huge progress from where we were last year. Online schooling can only do so much, even if we have provided all our students with tablets, laptops and internet connection. I believe that the children can learn better when they are physically guided by their teachers,” Zamora said.

“Some lessons can get lost in translation, and not all kids may have a conducive learning environment at home,” he added.

Zamora said classes would only last for three hours for kinder and four hours for Grades 1 to 3 to ensure the students’ safety.

He added that there would also be a 15-minute interval for students to enter the school premises to prevent crowding at the school gate.

Minimum public health and safety protocols will also be strictly observed.

Zamora said children would be seated at safe distances from one another and would be required to wear face masks at all times and to wash and sanitize their hands if needed.

Elsewhere, two schools in Manila joined Monday’s pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes after over a year of distance learning.

Sixty pupils from kindergarten to Grade 5 at Aurora Quezon Elementary School, as well as 15 senior high school students at Ramon Avanceña High School participated in the pilot run.

Manila Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna visited the two participating schools and noted the importance of physical classes for students despite the pandemic.

Lacuna assured parents that strict health protocols are in place in the schools. – With Neil Jayson Servallos, Jose Rodel Clapano, Marc Jayson Cayabyab