MANILA — No COVID-19 cases have been detected so far in public schools holding limited in-person classes but some schools found it challenging to get students to strictly follow COVID-19 health protocols, the Department of Education (DepEd) said Tuesday.
Students, especially those in kindergarten, "tend to take off their [face] mask after a short period of time," according to Education Assistant Secretary Malcolm Garma's presentation on the first week of the pilot implementation of in-person classes.
The presentation was based on reports submitted by 56 of the 100 public schools in the pilot run.
But Garma said such behavior was expected among children since they are not used to wearing masks, having been disallowed to leave their homes for more than a year because of the pandemic.
"This is expected probably because talagang hirap, hindi sila sanay (it's really difficult for them, they're not used to it)," he said.
"Isa ito sa mga bagay na gusto nating ma-integrate sa ating face-to-face learning, na masanay at maunawaan ng mga maliliit na mag-aaral kung bakit kailangan palaging isuot ang kanilang face mask," he added.
(This is one of the things that we want to integrate with our face-to-face learning, that students will get used to and understand why they need to wear face masks all the time.)
Only students from Kindergarten to Grade 3 and senior high school are allowed to join the pilot implementation, which started last Nov. 15 for public schools.
Students also "forget physical distancing," interacting closely with each other at times.
"Dito papasok 'yong role ng ating mga guro na continuously magpaalala sa ating mga mag-aaral at sa iba pa na talagang 'yong social o physical distancing ang pinakamahalagang bagay para masigurong walang mahahawa," Garma said.
(This is where our teachers come in, for them to continuously remind students and others that social or physical distancing is the most important thing to ensure that no one gets infected.)
Garma also appealed to local officials to ensure that people outside school premises wear face masks.
Despite the challenges, no COVID-19 infections have been detected in the schools, Garma said.
According to Garma's presentation, 7,324 public school students and 1,129 personnel are attending limited in-person classes.
Meanwhile, Bureau of Curriculum and Development Director Jocelyn Andaya reported that 1,732 learners and 375 personnel participated in the first day of pilot in-person classes in 18 private schools on Monday.
The pilot study is the first in a three-phased plan to gradually reopen basic education schools in the Philippines after nearly two years of distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The second "expansion" phase, under which more schools will hold in-person classes, may be done as early as January 2022, two months earlier than originally scheduled, Garma said.
"We thought of shortening the pilot study so we can already make an assessment, submit our report to the President, in preparation for the expansion come January," he said.