MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed the education and health departments to decide on the additional schools that would be included in the pilot implementation of limited in-person classes.
"Ang presidente mismo ang nag-approve ng aming recommendation na... hayaan na ang dalawang departamento na mag-assess ng mga additional school na isasama sa pilot, na i-expand ang coverage ng pilot," Education Secretary Leonor Briones said at the Laging Handa public briefing.
(The President himself approved our recommendation... to let the two departments assess the additional schools that would be included in the pilot, in the expanded coverage of the pilot run.)
"Mas mabilis na siguro ang decision-making," she added.
(The decision-making may be faster.)
Previously, the Department of Education (DepEd) sought Duterte's approval on matters related to the resumption of in-person classes, such as the number of participating schools in the pilot implementation.
Duterte initially approved 100 public and 20 private schools for the pilot phase but he later allowed more schools to hold limited in-person classes.
On Monday, 97 public schools reopened to students for limited in-person classes, with three schools in Zambales postponing their participation after several teachers tested positive for COVID-19 through antigen tests.
Briones, in a separate press briefing on Tuesday, said she considered the first day of the pilot run "a success" even though three schools were unable to join.
"I believe the pilot is a success. If you have a 97 percent full implementation and 3 deferred, that's very, very high indeed for a pilot effort," she said.
Briones said the three Zambales schools would start holding face-to-face classes on Wednesday after the teachers, who were already fully vaccinated against COVID-19, were found negative for the virus via confirmatory tests.
In the same briefing, Education Assistant Secretary Malcolm Garma reported that 6,213 kindergarten to Grade 3 and senior high school students attended the first day of the pilot implementation.
Garma said the DepEd expects the number to go up since the figure still excludes data from two regions.
There are over 8,000 students in grade levels joining the pilot run.
Garma added that 924 teaching and non-teaching personnel are participating in the pilot run.
He said education officials will meet on Tuesday afternoon to talk about the additional schools for the pilot run, which may include schools in the National Capital Region (NCR).
"Napakalaki ng posibilidad, kung gaganda pa ang situwasyon ng National Capital Region, in so far as COVID is concerned, ay makasama na rin 'yong mga paaralan mula sa NCR," Garma said.
(There's a big possibility, if the situation improves in the National Capital Region, in so far as COVID is concerned, that NCR schools will be included.)
In the briefing, DepEd Director Lope Santos III also said 67 percent of his agency's personnel nationwide have been inoculated against COVID-19.
Twenty private schools, meanwhile, are scheduled to start their limited in-person classes on Nov. 22.
The pilot implementation is the first in the government's three-phased plan to resume in-person classes in basic education after over a year of distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The second phase, the expansion phase under which more schools or more grade levels will be allowed to attend physical classes, is scheduled to start by March 2022.
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan and Arra Perez, ABS-CBN News