Amid concerns over the safety of students due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said enrollment for next school year would be voluntary and they would respect the decision of the parents.
STAR/Michael Varcas, file
DepEd: Enrollment up to parents
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - May 29, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Parents will make the final decision if they will allow their children to continue their education in the upcoming school year, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said yesterday.

Amid concerns over the safety of students due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Briones said enrollment for next school year would be voluntary and they would respect the decision of the parents.

“We try to give them as much information as possible, so they will be in a better position to decide,” Briones said in an online press briefing.

She said the Department of Education (DepEd) is preparing various options that would allow the school year to proceed without necessarily requiring students to go to school.

These distance learning alternatives include using printed modules or delivering educational content through technology, such as internet, television or radio.

“Parents will decide whether they will keep their children for several months – maybe 10 months at the very least – or take advantage or utilize the various options that DepEd is offering so that education of the children can continue,” Briones said.

Addressing concerns regarding the opening of classes, Briones said their position is not in conflict with that of the President, who said on Monday that he prefers to have a vaccine first before allowing classes to resume.

“Obviously what he is referring to is the physical or face-to-face handling of classes,” Briones said in Filipino.

“We in DepEd also say that we will not allow holding of physical or face-to-face classes not just in areas where it is risky, but also in those that would not be able to comply with the standards of the Department of Health (DOH),” she said.

Asked if a vaccine would be necessary before face-to-face classes would be allowed, Briones said they would not allow it unless the “DOH is satisfied,” citing its requirements such as facilities that would ensure safety of everyone.

The DOH earlier expressed support for the position of President Duterte that face-to-face classes should only be allowed when a vaccine for COVID-19 is available.

“We would like to reiterate the position of the DOH that face-to-face classes should remain suspended while we still don’t have a vaccine,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in Filipino on Wednesday.

Vergeire noted the difficulty in ensuring physical distancing in all parts of the campus, which is part of the minimum health standard requirements in allowing face-to-face classes.

Go backs Rody

Sen. Bong Go has expressed support for a call of President Duterte not to resume face-to-face classes until a vaccine for COVID-19 is available.

“We don’t want to delay the opening of classes, but our priority should be the safety and health of our fellow Filipinos,” Go, who is also chair of the Senate committee on health and demography, said during a Senate hearing on Thursday.

“We will take this one step at a time so that we can slowly but surely protect the safety of our students. Let’s assess first what happens in the coming days. For me, no vaccine, no physical classes or face-to-face learning,” Go said.

DepEd set the opening of classes in late August.

Earlier, Go recommended to the education sector to innovate ways to conduct teaching and learning sessions while adhering to physical distancing protocols and other measures set by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Go also encouraged educational institutions to explore online or distance learning programs to enable students to continue their studies without putting them at risk or adding burden to them and their families given the challenges of the post COVID-19 situation.

“Let us use the technology available for distance learning like having virtual classrooms. There is also airtime alloted for educational programs as provided by law, we can also use alternative mode of teaching and learning,” he said.

Remote enrollment

The start of the month-long enrollment period begins on Monday as scheduled.

But unlike in previous years when parents or guardians have to physically appear in schools to enroll their children, DepEd would adopt remote enrollment in public schools to minimize physical interaction.

Teachers will contact parents of their advisory class in the previous school year to collect enrollment data for incoming students in Grades 1 to 12.

Parents of incoming kindergarten enrollees should communicate their intent to enroll their children through digital or physical enrollment platforms created by the schools.

Transferees, returnees and prospective students of Alternative Learning System may also communicate their intent to enroll.

“Physical enrollment in schools or other similar activity shall be highly discouraged, even in low risk areas. The first two weeks shall completely be remote enrollment, where there will absolutely be no face-to-face,” read the guidelines released yesterday.

“Unless otherwise necessary, any form of physical enrollment shall only be done on the 3rd week of the enrollment period, which shall be done in coordination with local government units,” it added.

During the enrollment period, parents would be asked to fill out a survey form, which would identify household capacity to adopt the different learning modalities being developed by DepEd.

The agency said the survey would generate critical data for designing of learning delivery strategies and approaches, as well as in planning, resource allocation and policy formulation.

In areas where parents are unable to submit enrollment data through remote platforms, physical platforms such as kiosks or booths may be established in coordination with local government units.

“This shall be done in compliance with the minimum health and safety standards,” it added.

For teachers without laptops and internet connectivity, physical reporting to schools to encode enrollment data should adhere to minimum health standards.

If not possible, filled out hard copies of the forms should be compiled until encoding to the system is allowed.

“Teachers with existing medical conditions shall be provided with assistance during data collection,” the guideline read.

Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said the enrollment period would show trends on what would be the school population in the upcoming academic year. Cecille Suerte Felipe

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