7 senators urge pilot testing of limited in-person classes in low-risk areas

7 senators urge pilot testing of limited in-person classes in low-risk areas
Taguig Sanitation Office sprays a disinfectant solution at bus terminals and schools to contain the possible spreading of COVID-19.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:44 p.m.) — Citing the adverse effects of school closures on students, seven senators are calling on the government to hold pilot tests of limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

Senate Resolution No. 668, filed by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday, recommends the launch of "localized limited face-to-face classes in the 1,065 public schools as identified by the Department of Education under risk-based assessment, following stringent mitigation measures and strict health protocols."

It adds that conducting pilot tests would "enable the department to gather evidence on the ground and design its framework for the safe reopening of schools."

Sens. Nancy Binay, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Pia Cayetano, Joel Villanueva and Sonny Angara are co-authors of the resolution.

"[I]t is possible for learners to return to schools for in-person instruction as long as mitigation measures are observed, as there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission," they said, citing a technical report published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in December 2020.

The same report entitled "COVID-19 in children and the role of school settings in transmission," found that there "is a general consensus that the decision to close schools to control the COVID-19 pandemic should be used as a last resort."

"The negative physical, mental health and educational impact of proactive school closures on children, as well as the economic impact on society more broadly, would likely outweigh the benefits," it further reads.

The senators noted that pilot testing "will also lead to the resumption of the feeding program where the delivery of food packs to the beneficiaries will help mitigate the toll of the pandemic to their families and on their well-being."

They also emphasized the importance of prioritizing the vaccination of teachers against COVID-19 to mitigate the risk of adult-to-adult transmission in schools.

'Where are the government's priorities?'

Pangilinan on Monday scored the coronavirus task force for easing age-based restrictions and allowing the re-opening amusement parks, cinemas, and shopping centers at a limited capacity despite its stalling of face-to-face classes. 

"[M]assage parlors can now open. But our schools are not there yet. Where are their priorities?" he said in Filipino. 

Similarly, Dr. Tony Leachon, a former adviser to the task force, previously called its decision to allow minors to leave their homes for recreation "counterintuitive," given the repeated deferment of in-person classes. 

In a sponsorship speech for the resolution, Pangilinan emphasized that students will have to catch up with almost two years of studies due to the pandemic. "The longer we postpone the reopening of classes, the more we add to [their workload]," he said in Filipino. 

In addition to this, the senator sounded the alarm over the possible long-term effects of the sudden shift to blended learning amid the pandemic such as the increase in school drop-outs. 

"We owe it to our students, their parents, school faculty and staff, to be able to provide a safe environment to resume classes." 

"We can only do that if we have the experience — if we know what is effective, proper, and safe to do, and how to do it," he added partially in Filipino.

President Rodrigo Duterte last month thumbed down a proposal to hold limited face-to-face classes, citing the threat posed by more infectious variants of coronavirus.

In addition to the variant which emerged in the United Kingdom, the Department of Health on Tuesday confirmed that it detected six local cases of a more infectious variant first seen in South Africa. 

But vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday said the president might agree to hold face-to-face classes and loosen quarantine restrictions in the second quarter of the year if the government can sustain a stockpile of at least two million vaccine doses.

— Bella Perez-Rubio with a report from The STAR 

vuukle comment



SCHOOL YEAR 2020-2021


As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 12, 2022 - 10:42am

Follow this thread for updates on when classes will resume, and how those classes will be conducted.

Photo: Students wearing protective face masks have their temperatures taken while entering their college campus in Manila on January 31, 2020. AFP/Ted Aljibe

July 12, 2022 - 10:42am

DepEd says School Year 2022-2023 "shall open on Monday, August 22, 2022, and shall end on July 7, 2023. It shall consist of 203 school days or as may be determined by further issuance/s in case of changes in the school calendar due to unforeseen circumstances."

April 18, 2022 - 10:11am

Sen. Nancy Binay calls on the Commission on Higher Education and the inter-agency task force on COVID-19 not to "burden" students over requirements for face-to-face classes.

Higher educations students are being required to present medical insurance and other documents before participating in face-to-face classes.

“This is a cumbersome and unnecessary requirement para sa college students, considering that by law, all Filipinos are automatic members of PhilHealth. Sa totoo lang, 'di kailangang dagdagan ang proseso, dapat nga mas simplehan pa,” Binay says.

November 12, 2021 - 9:10am

The Department of Education announces that it will increase the number of participating schools in the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes.

"The expansion of the number of pilot schools will allow a greater degree of experience among all our regions that will serve us well for the expanded phase of face-to-face classes," DepEd says.

November 10, 2021 - 6:56pm

COVID-19 immunization has started for tertiary students in Ilocos Norte as part of the massive vaccination campaign of the Commission on Higher Education. 

This in preparation for the reopening of in-person tertiary classes, CHED-Regional Office 1 said as a ceremonial vaccination of students at Mariano Marcos State University was held on Monday in collaboration with the Department of Health, Department of Interior and Local Government, the provincial government and Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center. 

About 800 students are expected to be inoculated through the CHED immunization drive. 

Prior to this, MMSU had already vaccinated 75% of its student population. — The STAR/Artemio Dumlao

September 28, 2021 - 8:13pm

President Rodrigo Duterte has authorized limited face-to-face classes for the following programs: 

  1. Engineering and Technology programs
  2. Hospitality/ Hotel and Restaurant Management
  3. Tourism/ Travel Management
  4. Marine Engineering
  5. Marine Transportation

Commission on Higher Education Chairman Popoy De Vera, who made the announcement, said the authorization applies to "degree programs that require hands-on experience in higher education institutions under Modified General Community Quarantine."

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