Over 6,000 schools eligible to hold limited face-to-face classes: DepEd

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 28 2022 12:35 PM | Updated as of Feb 28 2022 05:08 PM

Students observe safety protocol inside the Ricardo P Cruz St. Elementary School in Taguig City, during the first day of the pilot face-to-face classes in the National Capital Region on December 06, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File
Students observe safety protocol inside the Ricardo P Cruz St. Elementary School in Taguig City, during the first day of the pilot face-to-face classes in the National Capital Region on December 06, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA (UPDATED) — More than 6,000 basic education schools across the country are eligible to hold limited in-person, an education official said Monday, a day before parts of the country ease into the least restrictive COVID-19 alert level.

The schools are still completing the requirements set by the Department of Education (DepEd) before they are given the green light for physical classes, said Roger Masapol, the agency's planning service director.

"We have more than 6,000 schools eligible to open for face-to-face [classes]. We are just seeking [local government unit] concurrence and parents' permit," Masapol told ABS-CBN News in a text message.

"We are assessing readiness of all schools. Once a school is ready, they can open, subject to their capacity," he added.

Masapol made the statement as Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian pushed for limited in-person classes in more schools in the National Capital Region, which will be placed under Alert Level 1 starting Tuesday alongside 38 other areas.

Gatchalian, chair of the Senate basic education committee, said more schools should resume face-to-face classes, reiterating economic managers' warning that online and module-based learning could negatively impact students' future earnings and the economy.

"Ang ligtas na pagbabalik ng face-to-face classes ay mahalagang hakbang upang makabangon ang sektor ng edukasyon mula sa epekto ng pandemya," said Gatchalian, who is eyeing another Senate term in this year's elections.

(The safe return of face-to-face classes is an important step in the education sector's recovery from the pandemic's effects.)

As of Monday, 1,876 public and private schools across the country are conducting limited in-person classes, according to Masapol.

Of the figure, 284 were part of the pilot phase from November to December 2021, while 1,592 started earlier this year under the expansion phase.

The Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC) earlier urged the government to prepare to reopen schools "at least by next school year."

"We have to be ready for the eventual physical reopening of schools... Children and their learning have suffered a lot for almost two years," TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas said in a statement last week.

Finalizing guidelines

In Malacañang, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Monday officials are still finalizing guidelines for in-person classes in areas under Alert Level 1.

"Right now, ang tini-tweak na lang po at pina-finalize, kung ano iyong additional guidelines na ilalagay natin for face-to-face classes," Nograles said.

(Right now we are still tweaking and finalizing the additional guidelines for face-to-face classes.)

Asked if all schools in an Alert 1 area could hold in-person classes, Nograles said, "this will be an ongoing discussion" between the DepEd, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera told ABS-CBN News that he would meet with pandemic task force officials this week to discuss directives on in-person classes under Alert Level 1.

Universities and colleges in areas under Alert Level 3 and below have been allowed to conduct limited in-person classes.

The eased restrictions come as the country showed improving COVID-19 numbers, logging less than 2,000 new infections each day in the past week. 

Still, health experts and government officials cautioned the public to continue following protocols against the virus.

— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan and Arra Perez, ABS-CBN News

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