Manila, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday signed guidelines for the pilot implementation of in-person classes in selected areas considered to be at low risk of COVID-19.
The DepEd said the guidelines contain mechanisms to ensure the safety of participating learners, teaching and non-teaching staff, and their families.
âOur top priority is the health and safety of our learners and teachers while ensuring that learning happens and learning gaps are filled. We have been proactive in planning a safe return to schools, âsaid Education Secretary Leonor Briones.
âThe operational guideline for the pilot series of face-to-face courses is the product of our collaboration with DOH, in consultation with various stakeholders, including child health experts,â she added.
Briones stressed that the guidelines would only apply to schools that have passed the strict DepEd and DOH verification process and have the support of their respective local government units.
The pilot test will be conducted in 120 schools across the country that have passed the school readiness assessment conducted by DepEd and relevant local government units.
The guidelines set standards for preparing schools for reopening. It implements the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat and Reintegrate (PDITR) framework emphasizing the importance of the availability of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities.
The guidelines also highlighted the need for good ventilation in classrooms, room layout that allows physical distancing between people, prioritization of students who will benefit most from a limited learning modality. face to face, from pedestrian traffic management and conducting pre-simulation activities to pilot implementation, among others.
âWe want to make sure that we provide safe learning spaces for children during this pandemic. Pilot execution will be a shared responsibility between DOH, DepEd and local government units to ensure mechanisms are in place, from prevention of COVID-19 infection to reintegration of recovered patients, âsaid the Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III.
“It is also a shared responsibility between the school administration, teachers and families to ensure that all minimum public health standards are met and that possible cases of COVID-19 are detected early through a regular screening and reporting of symptoms, âhe added.
Teachers and school staff participating in the program must be fully immunized, be 65 years of age and under, and have no co-morbidities.
âWe are committed to providing additional protection to our teachers through vaccination. Although vaccination is not mandatory, classroom learning will be limited to vaccinated teachers. In order not to deprive unvaccinated teachers of their rights, they can teach using distance or online modules. It also presents options for parents who are still hesitant to send their children to school, âsaid Duque.
According to the guidelines, the kindergarten class will have a maximum of 12 students, while grades 1 to 3 will have 16 students. The technical-vocational classes of five high schools can have 20 learners.
Kindergarten to Grade 3 learners will only spend a maximum of 3 hours in school while high school students will have 4 hours.
The pilot will feature a combined implementation of face-to-face and distance learning courses.
DepEd assured that it has drawn up an emergency plan with recommended actions for various scenarios, ranging from a suspected case with symptoms to a scenario of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in several barangays. This sets the policy on when schools should impose a lockdown.
âWith the help of DOH and other local partners, we will soon orient those who will be involved in the pilot race and coordinate with them the prioritization of their vaccination in case our participating teachers and other non-teaching staff do not. not finished their vaccines yet, âBriones said.
The government has yet to announce the exact date of the pilot race for physical classes, as well as the list of participating schools.
The dry drawing will be carried out for two months. Its extension will depend on the outcome of the evaluation of the pilot test.