MANILA (UPDATE) — Several public schools in Metro Manila reopened their campuses to students for limited in-person classes on Monday, the first time that basic education institutions in the capital region resumed classroom sessions after nearly two years under distance learning due to the COVID pandemic.
Around 2,300 Kindergarten to Grade 3 and senior high school students from 28 public schools across the National Capital Region (NCR), except in Pateros, were expected to attend the first day of the resumption of in-person classes, according to the Department of Education (DepEd).
The Metro Manila schools are part of the additional 177 schools that joined the pilot implementation of in-person classes, which started in mid-November in 100 public and 20 private schools in the regions.
At the Laging Handa public briefing on Monday morning, Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said the first day of in-person classes in Metro Manila has been “smooth” so far.
“I've been monitoring and we have not received any adverse report,” Malaluan said.
Education Assistant Secretary Malcolm Garma, one of the officials leading the pilot run of in-person classes, said he was satisfied with the health protocols implemented by participating schools.
“Nakita naman natin sa classrooms na inikutan natin, nakita natin iyong kasiyahan ng mga bata at mga guro at the same time, na makabalik sila sa school,” Garma told reporters as he visited Pasig Elementary School.
(We saw in the classrooms that we visited how happy the children and at the same time the teachers that they're back in school.)
Twenty-seven Grade 1 and 2 students joined the first day of in-person classes in Pasig Elementary School, all wearing face masks and seated away from each other.
In Makati’s Comembo Elementary School, 72 Kindergarten to Grade 3 students returned to their classrooms, which had open windows and electric fans to ensure proper ventilation.
In Quezon City, students of Payatas B Annex Elementary School underwent voluntary antigen COVID-19 testing as precaution against the virus.
The pilot run is the first of the government’s three-phased plan to bring back in-person classes, which were banned since March 2020 due to the threat of COVID-19.
This December, the DepEd will submit a report on the pilot phase to the Office of the President, which will be the basis in implementing the “expansion” phase in early 2022, Malaluan said.
Video courtesy of PTV
Education Secretary Leonor Briones already advised all public and private schools to prepare for in-person classes using the agency’s safety assessment tool, added Malaluan.
The DepEd has been authorized to issue “safety seals,” which indicate compliance to COVID-19 health protocols, to schools who pass the agency’s assessment, he said.
Malaluan said the DepEd was also “in constant touch” with the Department of Health (DOH), regarding developments over Omicron, a new variant of COVID-19.
Since the pilot run began last Nov. 15, no COVID-19 cases have been reported in the participating schools, according to the official.
The Movement for Safe, Equitable, Quality, and Relevant (SEQuRe) Education on Monday launched a campaign urging education stakeholders to monitor the pilot implementation.
SEQuRe Education Movement Convenor Mercedes Arzadon said her group has received initial concerns, such as insufficient health protection mechanisms in schools, contradictory policies of the DepEd and DOH, and out-of-pocket expenses of teachers in preparation for in-person classes, among others.
“These concerns must be addressed early into the pilot run as we do not want them to bog down the safe reopening of more schools across the country,” said Arzadon, who teaches at the University of the Philippines Diliman-College of Education.
The public can forward reports through SEQURE’s Facebook page and the following numbers: 0967-446-1266, 0917-639-5942, 0961-421-5053, 0969-152-3006, and 0997-516-6409.
— With a report from Zyann Ambrosio, ABS-CBN News