DepEd urged to go beyond quarantine levels in choosing schools for pilot physical classes

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 03 2021 04:10 PM | Updated as of Mar 03 2021 06:23 PM

MANILA – Senators on Wednesday urged the Department of Education to look past the quarantine status of a locality in selecting schools that would participate in its proposed dry run of face-to-face classes.

“We should go beyond the quarantine levels because the quarantine levels are quite general in terms of restrictions,” Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate basic education committee, said in a Senate hearing.

Gatchalian was reacting to the DepEd’s plan to hold limited face-to-face or in-person classes in areas under modified general community quarantine, the lowest of the 4 lockdown levels implemented by government.

As of March 1, 1,579 schools have been nominated for the pilot implementation of in-person classes, based on Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan’s presentation at the hearing. 

The number of schools that would participate in the dry run has yet to be determined but officials said it would be less than the number of the nominated schools.

The 1,579 schools includes 36 from the National Capital Region, which would only be allowed to participate if the metro would be downgraded to modified general community quarantine from its current GCQ status.

But Sen. Nancy Binay suggested to the DepEd to exclude schools from Metro Manila, the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the country, to make the dry run more acceptable for President Rodrigo Duterte who will decide whether or not it would push through. 

“If you make a presentation tapos kasama doon NCR, parang ayoko nang mag-face-to-face kasi alam naman natin na kahit i-declare siya na MGCQ, it's not because the COVID problem is not there but because they need to open the economy,” Binay said.

(If you make a presentation which includes NCR, I wouldn’t want to hold face-to-face classes because we all know that even if we declare MGCQ in the region, it's not because the COVID problem is not there but because they need to open the economy.)

Binay also said the DepEd should exclude from the pilot school divisions with high COVID-19 cases.

More than the quarantine status, the positivity rate and transmission rate of a locality should be considered to determine if a school is suitable for pilot face-to-face classes, Gatchalian said.

“I recommend that we employ the help of an epidemiologist or team of epidemiologists to help guide DepEd,” he said.

Sen. Imee Marcos, meanwhile, suggested holding the dry run in less than 1,000 “representative” schools. 

“What’s really important is that they (participating schools) represent urban, rural. They represent island provinces,” Marcos said.

Malaluan said he noted the suggestion of the lawmakers.

The government was supposed to conduct a dry run of limited in-person classes in January but President Duterte cancelled this over fears of the more infectious United Kingdom variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

He rejected it for a second time because the country had yet to roll out its COVID-19 vaccination program. Inoculations began on Monday with the arrival of the first batch of coronavirus vaccines from China's Sinovac.

The Senate on Tuesday passed a resolution calling for a pilot implementation of face-to-face classes in areas with low or zero COVID-19 cases.


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