MANILA (UPDATE 3) - The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Health (DOH) on Friday released guidelines on the resumption of face-to-face classes, limiting these to medical and health-related courses in areas with low COVID-19 cases.
Schools in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified general community quarantine (MGCQ)— the two lowest levels of restriction— will only be allowed to resume physical classes if they have the following courses:
- Medical Technology
- Medical Laboratory Science
- Physical Therapy
- Public Health
"Face-to-face delivery [is] delimited to specialized laboratory courses or hospital-based clinical/clerkship/internship/practicum, including clinical rotations for post-graduate medical interns," according to Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2021-001.
"Interns shall not be allowed to rotate in the emergency room, out-patient department, and COVID wards, but only be allowed to rotate in non-COVID units," it said.
Schools are barred from conducting in-person classes outside their respective campuses, it said.
Those in MGCQ areas must submit applications to their respective CHED regional offices, while those under GCQ need to "have base hospitals catering to COVID-19 patients."
Face-to-face classes "shall revert to implementing flexible learning" should areas be placed under stricter quarantine, the CHED and DOH said.
"All other degree programs and courses not identified as a priority... shall be delivered through flexible learning," it said.
CHANGES WITHIN THE CAMPUS
Schools allowed to resume face-to-face classes must provide "proper respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene, providing general welfare services and access to counseling" to ensure "physical and mental resilience" among students, faculty and other staff members.
Students, faculty and staff will be required to wear face masks, face shields and "other personal protective equipment that may be required by the Inter Agency Task Force."
Higher education institutions will be allowed to determine the maximum number of students in the campus, provided that a distance of 1.5 meters must be maintained between each student, and extracurricular activities will be banned.
Schools "shall re-engineer or re-design the layouts of their classrooms, laboratories and communal areas... to ensure physical distancing," the circular read.
Only students aged at least 20 will be eligible to join face-to-face classes.
Each student must be registered with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) or "equivalent medical insurance that covers medical expenses related to COVID-19."
Students, faculty and staff will be required to bring their own personal hygiene kits which must contain the following:
- Hand sanitizer
- Cleansing wipes/tissue/hand towel
- Extra face mask
- Hand soap
Just like in other public and commercial establishments, health declaration forms and body temperature will be taken at the entrance of each school authorized to conduct face-to-face classes.
"There shall be a transparent/clear partition between the faculty and the students," the circular read.
"Classrooms, laboratories and other school facilities as well as equipment used by the students shall be cleaned and disinfected at the end of each school day."
'BREAK TIME RULES'
Students will also be discouraged from buying food outside the campus as each student will only be allowed "one entry and one exit per day," according to the guidelines.
Break times will be "staggered" and schools must allow their students to "eat in their assigned seats inside their respective classrooms."
"There shall also be transparent/clear partitions between eating cubicles," it said.
"This extra precautionary measure is taken because face masks and face shields will be removed to enable the students to eat and drink."
Each school must set a time limit on how long students and faculty members can stay in the library.
Names of all those entering campus libraries must be recorded, and books must be returned through a designated drop box.
While schools are urged to "encourage their students, faculty and staff to use online library services instead of physically going to the library," computers in libraries may still be used provided that each unit "shall be cleaned before and after use."
The CHED - "without notice" - may order the "immediate suspension" of any school that will violate health protocols and other provisions prescribed under the circular.
"Any violation of these guidelines shall constitute discontinuance of the conduct of limited face-to-face classes," the circular said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier allowed the resumption of face-to-face classes for medical and health-related courses, saying the country must not run out of health workers during the pandemic.
Earlier this week, the Department of Education (DepEd) said that the agency is preparing to hold dry runs for the limited physical classes for senior high school students.