MANILA - Limited in-person classes in rural areas can resume in January, the chairman of the Senate committee on basic education said Thursday.
Some 400 local governments have "zero COVID," according to Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.
"In the rural areas my own analysis (is) we can already proceed with limited face to face classes as early as January," he told ANC's Headstart.
"Some rural areas in the country are experiencing zero COVID. In the urban areas it’s a different story, we still have to be cautious."
Schools in rural areas can go longer than 3 hours of learning if classrooms are at half-capacity, according to the senator.
"Kailangan pa magmask (they still need to wear masks), the shield should be studied carefully. The kids have a hard time talking," he said.
The Department of Education is “optimistic” that the expansion phase can start by January, said Assistant Secretary Malcolm Garma.
"That is when we are going to consider the other grade levels—not anymore on the pilot, but really the face to face classes, the limited face-to-face classes . Under the expansion phase we are open to that, but not anymore sa pilot. Tapusin na natin kasi sandali na lang ito," he said.
Meantime, teachers must be tested for COVID-19 regularly to boost the confidence of parents in the resumption of face-to-face classes in urban areas, Gatchalian said.
"We go with improving the confidence by testing teachers regularly. Of course that will be shouldered by government. And second we have to make sure teenagers are also vaccinated," he said.
Some P20 million is allocated in the Department of Education's budget for gadgets of teachers, according to the senator.
"We have to make sure in any event learning will continue," he said.
Gatchalian, a reelectionist, also said he agrees with increasing the honoraria of teachers who would render services in the upcoming elections.
"I agree to increase it and then let’s make it tax-free, it sends a good message to our teachers...They're there to make sure our elections are orderly," he said.