In-person classes to resume on 'case to case' basis amid pandemic: official

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 02 2020 01:32 PM | Updated as of Dec 02 2020 01:42 PM

A member of the Manila Health Department’s sanitation team disinfects a classroom in the General M. Hizon Elementary School on May 30, 2020. Czar Dancel, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The possible resumption of face-to-face classes will be approved on a "case to case" basis, an official leading the country’s pandemic response said Wednesday, about 8 months into varying degrees of lockdown to arrest the spread of COVID-19.

Authorities are studying allowing on-campus classes, especially for medical schools, depending on how much the country needs additional health front liners, said Secretary Carlito Galvez, chief implementer at the National Task Force Against COVID-19.

"Iyong tinatawag nating face-to-face classes is case to case basis," he said in a public briefing. "Hindi po puwede sila po na mag-open hangga't hindi po natin na-inspect."

(The so-called face-to-face classes is case to case basis. They cannot open until we have inspected them.)

The inter-agency task force against COVID-19 earlier allowed the University of the Philippines to resume its in-person medical internship program.

Video courtesy of PTV

The IATF will coordinate with Education Secretary Leonor Briones "on how we could really expedite and look at the possibility" of reconfiguring schools so they can follow health standards, said Galvez.

Studies say children can become coronavirus "super spreaders" if they are allowed to go out of their homes, he noted.

"Ang laki ng population ng K-12, more or less 16 million... Once na nagkaroon talaga tayo ng tinatawag na super spreader ay talagang medyo mahihirapan tayo," Galvez said, referring to the millions of elementary and high school students.

(The population of K-12 learners is large, more or less 16 million. Once one of them becomes a super spreader, we will find it very difficult.)

"Sa ngayon, hindi pa tayo po puwedeng magkumpiyansa kasi iyong ating figures ay hindi pa po irreversible," he said.

(For now we cannot be confident yet because our figures are not yet irreversible.)

Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) is still not closing doors to holding limited face-to-face classes, especially for students that need early childhood education, an official said Wednesday.

Speaking on ABS-CBN's Teleradyo, Education Undersecretary Diosado Antonio said they would recommend holding selected classroom teaching provided they observe strict health protocols in areas without COVID-19 cases or those with less transmission risk.

"This is DepEd's response [to] the persistent clamor [of local government units (LGUs) and parents] to have limited face-to-face [classes]," he said in Filipino.

The resumption of in-person classes is crucial to the learning process of early grade students - those from kindergarten until third grade - because it lays the foundation for lifelong learning and total development of children, Antonio said.

"Our basis is who needs the most attention," he said, adding some students may not get proper education at home.

Should it push through although not likely until yearend, he said strict health measures such as physical distancing would be imposed to ensure the well-being of students and teachers. There must also be proper coordination with schools and local officials, he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte in July had prohibited in-person classes until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available in the country. He said face-to-face classes may resume in January next year.

Classes in public schools in the country opened in October under a blended distance learning system due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.

Jennifer Rosario, chapter president of the National Parent Teachers Association Federation in Mimaropa, also proposed conducting in-person classes once a week.

"So the students will be assessed if they really have learned something at home," she said in Filipino.

Rosario noted that some parents in their area were illiterate so they could not teach their children properly. Some families don't even have television or radio, she added.

Under the blended learning system, students receive lessons through printed or offline modules, online learning and television or radio-based instruction.

- with reports from Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News