MANILA - The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on Monday released guidelines on how to implement the limited face-to-face classes for all programs in higher education institutions (HEIs), including state-run and private universities and colleges (SUCs).
During a hearing by the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education, CHED chairman Prospero De Vera said the role of LGUs is “very important” to ensure the safety of students and HEI personnel.
“Public transportation becomes very critical,” De Vera told lawmakers. “We must know if the public transportation system is safe, because many of our students from provinces will ride the jeepney or ride the tricycle going to school. We have to know what are the policies of the local governments for private transportation.”
LGUs must also ensure they are meeting vaccination targets as businesses around campuses will start opening up once more students come to schools, he stressed.
“These are businesses where the students will eat, congregate… and if the businesses- you know have higher risk levels, meaning the LGUs have not addressed concerns about vaccination... we might create a situation that is very dangerous for the students,” De Vera said.
He said pnly those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter campuses.
“Unless we can have a policy that all their tests will be free… this is going to have problems in implementation. It is safer to just allow fully vaccinated individuals to come in so the issue of testing, and the cost.. will not become a policy concern,” said De Vera.
According to him, HEIs must “retrofit” their facilities to ensure health standards are followed. Facilities must have adequate ventilation, a table-chair layout that adheres to the 1.5 meter physical distancing requirement; visible and readable signages of health and safety reminders; markings on the floor to indicate one-way foot traffic; and presence of hand washing stations.
Contact and non-contact sports for PE classes “shall be allowed” in areas under COVID-19 Alert Level 2. Those in Alert Level 3 are only allowed to conduct non-contact sports activities for their PE classes.
Meanwhile, off-campus activities, and extra-curricular activities such as sports, musical events, competitions, in-person graduation rites, and ceremonies “may be allowed subject to the approval of concerned Local Government Unit”, and conditions under IATF resolutions.
HEIs may also implement a 4-17 or 4-10 cyclical student shifting model.
Under the 4-17 cycle model, students will attend 4 consecutive days of face to face classes on campus, and 17 days for flexible learning; while the 4-10 cycle method would require the same number of days n campus, but 10 days for flexible learning.
Phase 1 of the implementation will begin in December in all regions under Alert Level 2, while Phase 2 will be implemented the following month in all regions under Alert Level 3.
“We are requiring weekly monitoring during our Phase 1 implementation so we will know whether what kind of adjustments we will do,” said the CHED chair.
De Vera stressed the importance of following safety and health protocols, citing China’s decision to quarantine 10,000 students after a COVID-19 outbreak.
Some members of the committee raised concerns on how some students are still not vaccinated.
“Sa amin ayaw magpa-vaccine ang mga estudyante, so I don't know if we can have face to face... even the teachers are not vaccinated,” House Deputy Speaker and Sorsogon 1st District Rep. Evelina Escudero said.
De Vera admitted that there are areas that really have low vaccination rates, and this may create “administrative problems”.
“They will be requiring teachers to hold face to face classes with x number of students and at the same time hold online classes with the rest of the class, that would effectively require faculty members to have 2 preparations, like holding 2 classes. And this will create a problem for the school because they may have to pay the teachers more,” he said.
De Vera hopes that vaccination in regions with low rates will be addressed soon, as CHED recently proposed school- based vaccination while medical and nursing students may apply as volunteer vaccinators.