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Private Schools Seek Gov’t Help In In-Person Classes

Private Schools Seek Gov’t Help In In-Person Classes
Students of the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery observe health and safety protocols as they attend their limited face-to-face class on June 14, 2021. Photo by KJ Rosales, The Philippine STAR

A group of public schools on Monday, Sept. 20, appealed for government help as learning institutions anticipate more operational problems with the pilot resumption of limited face-to-face classes.

 Joseph Estrada, managing director of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (COCOPEA), said they need support from the government as private schools face sustainability and survival challenges during the pandemic.

President Duterte had approved the pilot run of the resumption of in-person classes for basic education in 100 public schools and 20 private schools nationwide.

“We are more concerned moving forward how much benefit do we get from the pilot test. The concentration of schools is in National Capital Region, Region 4-A and nearby regions. How do we prepare?” Estrada said.

He noted there are costly preparations that need to be taken into consideration, such as retrofitting of facilities and hiring of more personnel as schools maintain both in-person and online delivery of classes.

“Definitely, we need government help. The retrofitting of facilities, hiring of personnel to help us in online and in-person classes, there are costs. Where do we get the money? We cannot raise our fees especially now that fewer are enrolled,” Estrada said in an interview on with “The Chiefs” on One Newson Monday night.

He said private schools have been undertaking cost reduction measures, such as retrenchment and salary reductions.

At least 200 to 300 private schools have closed as hundreds of thousands of students transferred to public schools.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) said it would meet with the Department of Health (DOH) today, Sept. 22, to finalize the guidelines for the resumption of in-person classes.

The guidelines will contain details on COVID-19 protocols, contingency measures, class schedules and other health protocols to be followed during face-to-face classes.

Teachers who are not yet vaccinated will be prioritized by the DOH.

The DOH defended the decision to involve children in the pilot implementation of in-person classes, saying they are in their “formative years” and “less vulnerable” to COVID-19.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH has been tasked to prepare the guidelines for the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes along with DepEd and other agencies.

Vergeire said pediatric health and behavioral experts were consulted before the government decided to involve Kindergarten and Grade 1 to 3 students in 120 schools in low-risk areas.

The young children were chosen because they have “lower risk of infection,” she said.

The United Nations (UN), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO) lauded the Philippine government’s approval of the pilot run of limited in-person classes.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the pilot testing would be done for two months in 100 public schools and 20 private schools in areas deemed “low risk” for COVID-19.

The UN, UNICEF and WHO emphasized that every child has the right to education and schools are central to children’s development, safety and well-being. “Together with our partners, we will continue to work closely with the government in support of safe in-person learning beginning with the pilot schools,” they said.

Read more: Classroom Bubble? UNICEF Suggests Ways For Safe Class Reopening; Group Says ‘Ridiculous’ To Keep Schools Shut

Senators welcomed the decision of President Duterte to allow the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes.

Sen. Francis Tolentino said allowing the resumption of in-person classes “is a good step toward normalization and improving the country’s education system.”

Sen. Nancy Binay said they expect the DepEd to complete the mapping of schools that are compliant and retrofitted for face-to-face classes during the pandemic. – With Sheila Crisostomo, Pia Lee-Brago, Cecille Suerte Felipe