MANILA — The Department of Education said Tuesday it could not fully guarantee the safety of students joining the pilot implementation of in-person classes but assured that contingencies are in place in case of COVID-19 infections.
"Sa panahon ng pandemya, mahirap magsabi na garantiya, 100 percent. Ang masasabi lang namin, lahat ng posibilidad, aming napag-aralan," Education Secretary Leonor Briones said in an online press conference.
(In this time of the pandemic, it's hard to say that we can guarantee the 100-percent safety. What we can say is that we've studied all the possible scenarios.)
Briones acknowledged that in-person classes may be a source of COVID-19 infection but the DepEd has taken "all the precautions possible to prevent any accidents or untoward results."
The precautions include putting spacing between students' seats and installing plastic barriers on them, officials said.
Briones said participating schools have prepared contingency plans in case a student or personnel exhibits COVID-19 symptoms.
The education chief also noted that younger children have stronger resistance against COVID-19.
According to the guidelines, only students from Kindergarten to Grade 3 and senior high school will participate in the pilot implementation, scheduled to start on Nov. 15 in 100 public schools and on Nov. 22 in 20 private schools.
Education Assistant Secretary Malcolm Garma, meanwhile, stressed that the selection process for the participating schools was very stringent to "minimize" the probability of COVID-19 transmission.
Participating schools have also conducted orientations with students, teachers and parents to ensure that health protocols would be followed during the classroom sessions, officials said.
"We have health personnel coming from DOH (Department of Health)... to orient our learners kasi mas paniniwalaan kasi ng mga bata 'yong mga doctor natin kung paano i-observe 'yong health protocol," said Carlito Rocafort, director of the DepEd in the Soccsksargen region.
(We have health personnel coming from DOH... to orient our learners because children believe doctors on how to observe health protocols.)
NO SWAB TESTS
Garma said students participating in the pilot run would not be required to undergo COVID-19 swab tests.
"We really cannot imagine the small children undergoing the swab test kasi (because it's) very traumatic," he explained, adding that the DOH did not recommend testing as well.
"We will rely on symptoms. So automatic kapag nag-symptoms ang bata, the usual protocol of isolation and contact tracing will be undertaken," he added.
(We will rely on symptoms. So automatically, if a child shows symptoms, the usual protocol of isolation and contact tracing will be undertaken.)
Garma said the DepEd would consult the DOH if face shields would be required inside classrooms.
Face masks, however, are "non-negotiable" and must be worn at all times, he added.