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Schools in 329 areas may reopen for in-person classes

The Philippine Star
Schools in 329 areas may reopen for in-person classes
Addressing the DOH budget hearing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, “We already gave them (Department of Education) a revised list of areas where schools can open. We now have 329 areas where they can open schools.”
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — A total of 329 areas around the country have been deemed by the Department of Health (DOH) as places where K-12 schools may reopen for in-person classes even in the middle of the pandemic, the Senate was informed yesterday.

Addressing the DOH budget hearing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, “We already gave them (Department of Education) a revised list of areas where schools can open. We now have 329 areas where they can open schools.”

Vergeire said the DOH’s recommendation is on account of its being a part of the team of experts assessing areas where schools can reopen.

“But as I’ve said, their process would be that every time that we submit the list, they do a reassessment, talk to the local governments and that will be the factor to consider if they will include it as part of the opening or not,” she explained.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, who presided over the hybrid hearing on the DOH budget, said she has found that while the objective is to reopen 100 schools for the pilot implementation of in-person classes, only 30 of 59 public schools earlier identified by the DOH will proceed with reopening on Nov. 15.

Cayetano then sought this clarification: “My question to the DOH, when you obviously had a hand in identifying these (schools), but did you actually just personally prepare the framework, or were you a part of the team that went around the schools to check preparedness for what needs to face opening?”

Vergeire said the DOH was part of the DepEd and experts’ team that formulated the guidelines for these face-to-face classes.

“But as to the assessment of schools using the tool that they use, it’s really Department of Education going around,” she said. “What we provide for them would be the list of these areas where the schools can open, depending on the alert level.”

The DOH official explained that upon reassessment, some of the schools were unable to comply with the standards set. “That’s why they announced at the outset they are going to start with 30,” she said.

Early this month, DepEd officials said the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes will be from kindergarten to senior high school in areas deemed as low risk for COVID-19.

“There were preparations to see that all systems go,” Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said. “We start on Nov. 15, the face-to-face classes and we set it in pilot schools at the start of the second quarter academic calendar.”

Malaluan said there will be close monitoring and assessment of the initial run. “It will end by December and will reopen in January. While classes continue, we will not stop the process in the pilot schools, data will be gathered to be able to submit a report to the President on the pilot run,” he explained.

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