MANILA – The Department of Education said Wednesday that 1,114 schools have been “nominated” to take part in its dry run of face-to-face classes next year but the number of actual participating schools would be lower.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the department’s regional directors made the recommendation on schools that could possibly participate in the pilot testing.
“So far, ang ni-report ng ating regional directors last week ay 1,114 schools ang na-nominate out of 61,000 schools,” she said.
Briones said 3 regions have “begged off” from participating in the dry run, including the National Capital Region (NCR), the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
DepEd NCR Director Malcolm Garma said his office did not nominate a school since Metro Manila remains under general community quarantine (GCQ) until the end of the year.
Only schools under modified GCQ or considered low risk of COVID-19 transmission are allowed to participate in the dry run.
Briones said there was a “big demand” for face-to-face or in-person instruction in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) and Eastern Visayas.
“The other regions, nagva-vary (The demand in other regions vary),” she said.
But the education chief said the number of schools that would actually participate in the dry run, scheduled to take place on Jan. 11-23, 2021 “will be very much lesser than 1,114.”
The DepEd is scheduled to select the pilot schools on Dec. 28.
In an earlier statement, the agency said it would still evaluate whether the schools complied with requirements and are ready to participate in the dry run.
Briones explained the department wanted to hold a pilot testing of in-person instruction so it would be prepared to resume physical classes once a vaccine against COVID-19 is made available in the country.
“I-pilot muna namin. Kaya iyong permiso na hinihingi namin sa Presidente ay paggawa ng pilot study para [kung] nandiyan na [ang] vaccine, handa na ang lahat,” she said.
(We’ll only do a pilot. We asked permission from the President for a pilot study so when the vaccine is available, we’ll be ready.)
She stressed that students’ participation in the pilot study is “voluntary” and requires a written consent from parents.
In an attempt to ease fears, Briones said the department would prioritize the safety of children and teachers.
Under the DepEd guidelines, stringent health protocols must be followed at students’ home, during travel to and from school, and within campus.
Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said participating students and teachers would undergo “symptom-based screening” to ensure that they have not been exposed to a COVID-19 case or do not have symptoms of the illness.
Malaluan added that the department is still considering rapid testing for teachers.
He had said that among the students that may participate in the dry run are senior high school students under the technical-vocational-livelihood track and learners who find it difficult to learn by themselves at home.
Regional reports on the dry run will be submitted from Jan. 25 to 29, which will be the basis of recommendations to the President.
Duterte earlier said he would not allow in-person classes unless a vaccine against COVID-19 is available in the country.
Malacañang has explained that Duterte approved the conduct of the dry run because the current blended learning scheme implemented in schools “is far from ideal.”