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Students Back To School As F2F Learning Kicks Off

Students Back To School As F2F Learning Kicks Off
A Grade 1 teacher checks on the works of her students during tutorial session at the Puray Elementary School in Montalban, Rizal on Nov. 15, 2021. After almost two years since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the country resumed face-to-face classes in pilot areas following health and safety protocols. Photo by Michael Varcas, The Philippine STAR

After a year and eight months, thousands of young learners are finally back in actual brick-and-mortar schools upon the country’s resumption of face-to-face (F2F) classes on Monday, Nov. 15, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Education (DepEd) said some 5,245 learners from Kinder to Grade 3 are expected to participate in the pilot F2F in some 100 public schools nationwide.

DepEd said this is a huge step following the closure of 61,000 schools that grounded over 24 million students at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March last year.

“As we take a huge step of reintroducing face-to-face classes amidst the public health situation, we are optimistic that our bayanihan spirit will live on to ensure the safety of involved stakeholders and the success of this pilot run,” the DepEd said.

The department said more learners in public and private schools are expected to participate in in-person classes following the approval of President Duterte to expand the resumption of F2F learning.

However, the first day of F2F was met with criticism after reports that uniformed personnel equipped with firearms were seen inside Longos Elementary School in Pangasinan.

“We are appalled by the sight of having police and military personnel with long-armed weapons inside the classroom. Their presence would also have negative effects to our teachers and other school personnel… in the fulfillment of their duties due to harassment and intimidation,” the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said, adding that the sight of armed personnel can cause trauma to young children.

DepEd said that based on a field report, the armed police officers were part of the security detail of an LGU official who visited the school.

The department likewise reminded its field officials and school heads on the rule banning the presence of armed combatants in schools.

“Any armed force protection should be situated proximate to the school and not inside the school. DepEd shall work together with our stakeholders to ensure that our guidelines on schools as zones of peace, where our learners feel safe, secured and nurtured, are observed,” it added.

Reminder 

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday reminded authorities to ensure that mitigation measures are strictly enforced to prevent COVID-19 transmission in schools.

“After more than a year without face-to-face classes, we have finally begun the gradual return of students to their schools. At the same time, we must still prioritize the health and safety of our students and teachers,” Gatchalian said.

The lawmaker cited the importance of maintaining well-ventilated spaces and adequate facilities for water, sanitation and hygiene.

He reiterated the need for local government units to have an active contact tracing and surveillance system.

Gatchalian also raised the need to increase the DepEd’s budget to make the safe reopening of schools possible. Under the P5.4 billion allotted by the National Expenditure Program 2022 for Basic Education Facilities, only P358 million was allotted for Priority School Health Facilities. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe