MANILA - As face-to-face classes begin in Metro Manila on Monday, some of the 28 schools participating in the initial run have introduced ways of adapting to the new mode of in-person learning amid the pandemic.
These include tapping technology to monitor attendance and converting school areas for other uses in anticipation of possible infections.
More than 2,000 learners will resume face-to-face classes in public schools across the capital region as part of a pilot run, according to the Department of Education.
At the Ramon Avanceña High School in Manila, students will log their attendance by having QR codes on their IDs scanned at the entrance when they arrive and leave.
Mark William Dostilla, head teacher of the TLE-vocational department, implemented the scheme using a free app on a government-provided tablet.
A common entrance scheme for large private schools, but a first for the public school.
Aside from monitoring who is inside or outside the school, the app will send a text message to the parent or guardian with details of the log-in.
Dostilla said its purpose was to ensure contactless data gathering and also give assurance to parents.
“Naniniwala kasi kami na malaki ang responsibilidad ng school sa pangangalaga ng estudyante,” he said.
"So naiintindihan namin ‘yong kalagayan ng loob ng mga magulang especially na alam nila na ang anak nila ay nasa loob at ligtas sa paaralan.”
(We believe the school has a big responsibility in taking care of the students. So we understand the need for parents to be reassured that their children are safe inside the school.)
The flow of people entering the school is also dictated by health and safety protocols, such as temperature checks and sanitation.
Students will also have to wait at a holding area at the school’s covered court before entering the classroom.
Only 15 students are attending the classes there, all of them under the techinical-vocational-livelihood track.
The track was prioritized because of its hands-on sessions, with classes to be held at the home economics work station room of the senior high building.
Amid the tables and chairs are stovetop ovens, food mixing equipment, and refrigerators.
Many of the materials the learners will use, from notebooks to baking ingredients, come from donations.
Daily classes end after lunch, but the face-to-face sessions will be held every other week, with classes returning online in the weeks between.
The DepEd said it is managing the exposure of students on-site with limited school hours and alternate weekly meetings.
Another addition to the schools—the conversion of rooms and areas into isolation facilities for COVID-19 symptoms.
Ramon Avanceña High School’s isolation room is its former canteen.
At the Payatas B Annex Elementary School in Quezon City, an isolation tent was placed near the lobby.
Many schools have also tied up with local government to have ambulances on standby.
All have been instructed to be ready for possible infections, especially with the threat of the COVID-19 omicron variant, DepEd-NCR regional director Usec. Wilfredo Cabral told TeleRadyo.
It would still have implications for the wider implementation of face-to-face classes in the Philippines
"Kung mayroong lalabas na kaso, whatever variant, stop po kaagad ang ating implementation,” Cabral said.
(Should any cases come out, whatever the variant, we would immediately stop our implementation.)
The DepEd plans to assess its pilot run after 2 months before proceeding with an expanded rollout.