MANILA - The Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday allayed concerns over holding limited in-person classes in January, saying it would exercise "extreme caution" for the safe reopening of select schools as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.
Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan, in an interview with ANC's "Matters of Fact," said they would enforce stringent measures to ensure the safety of students and teachers.
"We are taking this forward with extreme caution to start with pilot study," he said.
Malaluan added, "Even as there is some level of risk, that can be mitigated and reduced to a minimum if you will exercise all the known precautions."
Over 1,100 out of 61,000 schools have been nominated to participate in the dry run, which is expected to take place on Jan. 11 to 23.
"We will trim it down based on typology, of geographic areas, grade levels, as well as types of programs, so we can have a representative set from which we can draw lessons and conclusions to inform the final recommendation that will be made by the secretary to the President and [his] Cabinet towards the end of January," he said.
HOW WILL IT LOOK LIKE?
First, participating schools must be under modified general community quarantine (MGQC), the most relaxed measure in the country's 4-level community quarantine scheme, Malaluan said.
Those included in the pilot testing must have support from local government units (LGUs) and consent from parents. A pre-orientation will be conducted among students and teachers prior to the dry run, he added.
Before students and teachers will be allowed inside school premises, they will undergo a symptoms check at the gates. Strict physical distancing and face covering rules will be implemented inside classrooms.
Classroom teaching will not be for the whole day, Malaluan said, as the agency would implement staggered schedules. Flag-raising ceremonies will also be prohibited.
Students will then have to go straight home after their classes, he added. Among those chosen for the pilot test are senior high school students under the technical-vocational-livelihood track and learners struggling with distance learning.
Malaluan said they were pushing for the resumption of limited face-to-face classes as part of the blended learning system. This is also in response to the appeal of LGUs seeking physical classes because they are low-risk for COVID-19 spread, he added.
The novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness, has infected over 452,000 people in the Philippines.
The nationwide tally includes 419,000 people who have recovered from COVID-19 while 24,873 patients are still sick with the virus.
ANC, Matters of Fact, DepEd, Department of Education, in-person classes, face-to-face classes, pilot test January face to face